California Arson Laws Penal Code 451 and 452 PC

California's arson laws are contained in California Penal Code 451and 452 PC. These laws make it a crime if one willfully and maliciously -- or even recklessly -- sets fire to any building, forest land, or property.1

Arson laws typically don't apply to setting your own personal property (which does not include buildings or other real estate) on fire...UNLESS:

  1. you set fire to your personal property for a fraudulent purpose (to collect an insurance payment, for example), or
  2. the fire causes injury to another person or to another person's home, property, or land.2

Examples of violations of California's arson laws include:

  • Setting fire to someone else's car as an act of revenge,
  • Setting fire to a building that houses a restaurant you own in order to collect insurance money, and
  • Causing a forest fire through reckless behavior (like throwing a lit cigarette into grass despite posted signs warning you not to).
Penalties

The punishment for arson charges in California depends on (1) the type of property at issue, (2) whether or not someone was injured, and (3) whether you set the fire deliberately or only "recklessly."

The penalties for arson can include substantial state prison time...and may even include the penalties associated with murder if a victim of the arson is killed.3

Legal defenses

Because both intentional and so-called "reckless" acts can result in felony arson charges, it is important to consult with a California arson defense attorney immediately if you are the subject of an accusation. An experienced criminal defense lawyer knows the most effective ways to get your arson charges reduced or even dismissed.

Some legal defenses that can be useful in California arson cases include taking the position that:

  • The fire was set by accident,
  • There is insufficient evidence to prove arson,
  • The accusations are deliberately false, and / or
  • Someone else actually set the fire.
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In order to help you better understand the California "property destruction" crime of arson, our California criminal defense attorneys4 will address the following:

1. An Overview of California Arson Law
2. How Does the Prosecutor Prove that I am Guilty of Committing Arson?

2.1. California Penal Code 451 PC "malicious arson"

2.2. California Penal Code 452 PC "reckless arson / reckless burning"

3. What are the Penalties for California Arson?

3.1. Misdemeanor reckless arson / reckless burning -
Penal Code 452 PC

3.2. Felony arson or reckless burning - Penal Code 451
or 452 PC

3.3. Aggravated arson

3.4. Registration as a convicted California
arson offender

4. How Do I Fight an Arson Charge in California?
5. Arson and Related Offenses

If, after reading this article, you would like more information, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.

You may also find helpful information in our related articles on Legal Definition of a Misdemeanor in California Law; Explanation of California Probation & Probation Violation Hearings; Legal Definition of a "Wobbler" in California Law; The Legal Definition of Great Bodily Injury/Harm Penal Code 12022.7; Legal Definition of a Felony in California Law; Attempted Crimes in California Criminal Law Penal Code sections 21a and 664 PC; California Three Strikes Law and Proposition 36 Reforms; Registration as a Sex Offender under Penal Code 290 PC; Expungement Under Penal Code 1203.4 PC; How to Apply for a California "Certificate of Rehabilitation" Penal Code Sections 4852.01 - 4852.21 PC; Common Legal Defenses to California Crimes; Accident as a Legal Defense under California Criminal Law; Mistaken Eyewitness Identification and California Law; California's Murder Law Penal Code 187(a) PC; The California "Felony-Murder" Rule; California Burglary Penal Code 459 PC; California Criminal "Trespass" & "Trespassing" Laws Penal Code 602 PC; and California Insurance Fraud.

1. An Overview of California Arson Law

Although California arson laws have been on the books since the 1870s, the current versions of the arson statutes were mostly enacted in 1979.5

The first California arson statute is California Penal Code 451 PC, which prohibits "willfully or maliciously" setting fire to a building, land, or other property.6

The second California arson law is California Penal Code 452 PC, which describes a crime technically referred to as "unlawfully causing a fire" (...and more commonly referred to as "reckless burning" or "reckless arson"). This code section prohibits recklessly setting fire to a building, land, or other property.7

Because of the collateral damage that frequently stems from California arson crimes, law enforcement teams put an enormous amount of money and other resources into trying to solve arson cases...and, in particular, apprehending and prosecuting suspected arsonists.

On that note, arson is a crime which requires very sophisticated investigation. In fact, "fire investigator" is now a job description...and there is a national organization that provides certification to former law enforcement personnel who want to be professional fire investigators.

Special units and elite teams are usually in charge of suspected arson cases, as they know how to analyze chemical and forensic evidence to locate the point of origin of a fire...a key fact which can help them determine how the fire started.

2. How Does the Prosecutor Prove that I am Guilty of California Arson?

What the prosecutor has to prove to convict you of California arson depends on which California arson law you are being charged under.

The two choices are the "malicious arson" law, Penal Code 451 PC, and the "reckless arson" (or "reckless burning") law, Penal Code 452 PC. The main difference between arson and reckless arson / reckless burning is the state of mind that is present in the offender.

2.1. California Penal Code 451 PC "malicious arson"

With respect to Penal Code 451 PC "willful or malicious arson" cases, the prosecutor must prove the following two facts (otherwise known as "elements of the crime"):

  1. that you set fire to or burned a structure, forest land, or property, AND
  2. that you did so willfully and maliciously.8

Let's take a closer look at some of these terms to better understand their meaning.

Set fire to or burn

For purposes of the arson law, you set fire to or burn something when you damage or destroy it with fire. You don't need to damage or destroy the entire object...damaging even a very small part of it counts.9

Example : Lester is laid off from his job. In a fit of rage, he decides to burn down the five-story building where his old company is located. He sets a fire at the building one night after everyone has left...but Lester is not experienced at starting fires, and only the building's front door is actually damaged before the fire goes out.

Lester has still committed malicious arson...even though only a very small part of the building he targeted was burned.

Structure, forest land, or property

A "structure" includes not just a building...but also any bridge, tunnel, power plant, or commercial or public tent.10

"Forest land" means any brush-covered land, cut-over land, forest, grasslands, or woods.11

Finally, "property" means any personal property (property that is not real estate...like a car, a boat, furniture...or even clothing12 ) or land other than forest land.13

Example : Louise, a high school student, uses cardboard to set a fire in a trash can at her school.
Louise is guilty of arson...the trash she burned is considered to be personal property, and it belonged to the school.14

BUT if the object that is burned is personal property, it can only be considered arson if the property is NOT your own....it must be someone else's. Otherwise, it is not a crime to burn it...UNLESS you do so with the intent to defraud someone (like an insurance company) or the fire also injures someone else or their property.15

Willful and malicious

You act "willfully" if you commit an act willingly or on purpose. It doesn't matter if you didn't mean to break the law.16

You act "maliciously" if you intentionally commit a wrongful act...or when you do something with the unlawful intent to defraud, annoy, or injure someone else.17

In other words, to be convicted of Penal Code 451 PC "malicious arson," you need to have intended to do something wrong or to harm someone else or their property. If you set fire without malicious intent, then you could still be charged with the lesser crime of Penal Code 452 PC "reckless burning."

2.2. California Penal Code 452 PC "reckless arson / reckless burning"

With respect to Penal Code 452 PC "reckless arson" cases, the prosecutor must prove the following two elements:

  1. you set fire to or burned a structure, forest land, or property, and
  2. you did so "recklessly."18

Recklessly

Here's what it means to act "recklessly" for the purposes of Penal Code 452 PC:

  1. you are aware that your actions present a substantial and unjustifiable risk of causing a fire,
  2. you ignore that risk, and
  3. doing so is a gross deviation from how a reasonable person would act in the same situation.19

"Reckless" is actually a high standard and is not synonymous with careless or negligent. True "accidents"...such as forgetting to turn off the stove...won't typically make you liable for arson or reckless burning.

However, acting with a complete disregard for safety may. Examples of reckless burning include acts such as

  • throwing a burning cigarette into dry brush, or
  • lighting a match next to highly flammable materials.
Example : John lives in a trailer on the property where he works as a caretaker. The trailer has no cooking facilities, so he uses a campfire in a fire ring for all his cooking. There is a county sign prohibiting fires in the area not far from the trailer.
One day, John builds a campfire so he can make coffee, then puts it out (or so he thinks) with sand. Soon strong winds start blowing, and a fire starts on the premises. The fire ends up burning multiple homes and acres of national forest land. Investigators determine that John's campfire was the cause.
John is NOT guilty of reckless burning. He may have been negligent. But, since the campfire was the only way he could cook, it wasn't reckless-a gross deviation from reasonable behavior-for him to build the fire where he did.20
3. What are the Penalties for California Arson?

Sentencing and penalties for California arson charges vary a great deal, depending on a variety of factors including (but not limited to):

  • whether you are convicted of malicious or reckless arson,
  • the nature of the property that you burned,
  • whether any people were injured as a result of the fire, and
  • your criminal history.21

If you are convicted of any arson offense, the judge may order you to submit to a psychiatric or psychological evaluation in order to help him/her decide on the length of your jail or prison sentence.22

Below is an example of the types of penalties and punishment you may face if you are convicted under California's arson laws.

3.1. Misdemeanor reckless arson / reckless burning - Penal Code 452 PC

Let's say you recklessly start a fire or burn personal property (not a building or forest land)...and no one suffers a great bodily injury as a result. In this case, you will probably be charged with the crime of misdemeanor reckless arson / reckless burning.23

Potential penalties in this type of arson case would include:

  • informal (otherwise known as "summary") probation,
  • up to one (1) year in a county jail, and/or
  • a fine of up to one thousand dollars ($1,000).24

3.2. Felony arson or reckless burning - Penal Code 451 or 452 PC

Under some circumstances, reckless arson / reckless burning under Penal Code 452 PC is a wobbler. This means that it may be charged as EITHER a
misdemeanor OR a felony, . . . usually depending on the circumstances of the crime and the defendant's criminal history.25

These circumstances are:

  • The fire caused a great bodily injury ,
  • The fire burned an inhabited structure or inhabited land, OR
  • The fire burned a structure or forest land.26

In addition, malicious arson under Penal Code 451 PC is always a felony.27

The potential felony penalties for malicious arson or felony reckless arson include the following:

  • sixteen (16) months to nine (9) years in the California State Prison28 (or sixteen (16) months to three (3) years in the state prison if convicted of attempted arson29 ),


  • up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000) PLUS an additional fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) in fines, or twice the amount of an actual or anticipated gain (if the prosecutor proves that you set the fire for financial gain)30 , and/or
  • a possible strike on your criminal record under California's Three
    Strikes Law
    . (This penalty only applies if you are convicted of malicious arson under Penal Code 451 PC.31 Because this is the case, your arson attorney may try to have your malicious arson charge reduced to reckless burning under Penal Code 452 PC in a plea bargain.)

3.3. Aggravated arson

As if that weren't enough, California law also provides for enhanced penalties for so-called "aggravated" arson cases. You face an additional and consecutive sentence of one (1) to five (5) years in California state prison if any of the following circumstances exist:

  1. you have a prior felony conviction for malicious or reckless arson under either Penal Code 451 or 452 PC,
  2. a firefighter, officer, or other emergency personnel officer suffers great bodily injury (defined as a significant or substantial physical injury) as a result of the fire,
  3. more than one (1) person suffers great bodily injury as a result of the fire,
  4. you cause multiple structures to burn, or
  5. in the commission of the offense, you use a device to accelerate the fire or to delay ignition.32

And while the following will not add an additional prison sentence, if either of these two circumstances were present, they are aggravating factors which the judge may use to determine the length of original sentence:

  1. you set fire to a structure in retaliation against a person whom you believed owned the burned structure (for example, a landlord who evicted you)33 , or
  2. you knew that you were setting fire to a church, synagogue, or other "place of worship"34 .

Finally, if the prosecutor alternatively or additionally proves that you started a fire intending to injure other people or damage an inhabited dwelling or structure...and

  • you had a prior arson conviction within the past ten (10) years,
  • the fire damaged property or and/or caused losses with a total value of more than $5,650,000 (including the cost of fire suppression), or
  • you damaged five or more "inhabited structures",

you face a state prison sentence of ten (10) years to life.35 It must be noted that if you fall under this category, you do not qualify for probation36.

Simply put, a structure is "inhabited" if someone lives there.37 It isn't necessary that anyone be in the structure at the time of the fire, as long as the occupant intended to return.

Similarly, if the only reason that the occupant wasn't living in the structure at the time of the fire was due to a natural or other disaster, the home would technically be inhabited. A dwelling or other structure is considered not inhabited only if the occupant has moved out with no intention of returning...even if he/she left behind some personal property.38

Finally, even if you set fire to a vacant apartment unit, or another structure that is attached to (or a part of) a bigger inhabited structure . . . prosecutors can still charge you with aggravated arson.39

3.4. Registration as a convicted California arson offender

If you are convicted of

  1. malicious arson under Penal Code 451 PC,
  2. any of the "aggravating factors" that result in a minimum ten-year prison sentence, described in Section 3.3 above,
  3. possessing, manufacturing, or disposing of any flammable or combustible material, or of any incendiary device in connection with your arson charge, OR
  4. attempted malicious arson,

you must additionally register as a convicted arsonist.40 This means that...like an individual who is required to register as a sex offender under
Penal Code 290 PC
41 ...you must routinely keep your local law enforcement agency updated with respect to your whereabouts.42

The length of time that you must register varies, depending on (1) whether you were an adult or minor at the time of your offense, and (2) when you were convicted.43 Failing to register properly subjects you to an additional misdemeanor charge with a county jail sentence of between six (6) months and one (1) year.44

It is important to know that if your conviction was for (1) misdemeanor malicious arson, or (2) misdemeanor possession, manufacturing, or disposing of flammable materials, your California arson defense attorney may be able to help you secure an expungement under Penal Code 1203.4 PC. An expungement under 1203.4 PC relieves you of your duty to register as an arsonist.45

Similarly, if you were convicted of a felony arson charge that requires you to register as an arson offender, your California arson lawyer may be able to help you secure a certificate of rehabilitation. A certificate of rehabilitation also relieves you of your duty to register.46

4. How Do I Fight a California Arson Charge?

Because the punishment and penalties for a California arson conviction are so severe, it is critical to secure legal representation from a skilled California criminal defense and arson lawyer. He or she understands the many legal defenses that may cause arson charges or reckless burning charges to be reduced or even dismissed.

The following are examples of some of the most common legal defenses that a California arson defense attorney could present on your behalf.

The fire was an accident.

In order to convict you of arson or reckless burning, the prosecutor must prove that you acted either (1) maliciously, or (2) recklessly.

Thus, arson and reckless burning cases are two of many California crimes where you can use accident as a legal defense. If you can prove that the fire was the result of an accident, you can't be convicted of this charge.

Perhaps you simply forgot to turn off the iron. Perhaps one of your candles "sparked" onto a piece of nearby paper that became ignited.

As San Bernardino criminal defense attorney Michael Scafiddi explains47 ,

"It's my job effectively to convince the judge and/or jury that a fire that was accidentally started simply went out of control...and that, despite the fact that people or property may have been injured...it was absolutely an unintended, noncriminal act."

That said, if you create the risk...but were unaware of the risk because you were voluntarily intoxicated (that is, drunk or high on drugs as a result of your own actions)...that will not serve as a defense to a California Penal Code 452 PC reckless burning charge.48

Example : Dave and Ted go camping together and build a campfire in a national forest. They drink large amounts of beer and pass out, drunk, before they are able to put out the campfire. The fire spreads overnight and damages acres of forest land.

Dave and Ted may be charged with Penal Code 452 PC reckless burning even though the fire was definitely an accident...because they got drunk voluntarily, and so put themselves in a situation that prevented them from understanding the risk of fire spreading.

There is insufficient evidence.

Even investigators admit that most arson cases are built on circumstantial evidence. "Circumstantial evidence" indirectly proves a fact...whereas direct evidence directly proves the fact. Some guess work is necessarily involved with circumstantial evidence...and, as a result, it is not as solid as direct evidence.

With respect to a California arson or reckless burning case, there are usually few, if any, witnesses. Fire-starting devices frequently are destroyed in the fire. Unless something can directly tie you to the fire, the prosecutor may not have enough solid evidence to convict you of these offenses.

You were falsely accused and wrongfully arrested.

There are a number of reasons why an individual might falsely accuse you of arson or reckless burning.

Perhaps s/he accidentally started the fire and is afraid to suffer the consequences. Perhaps s/he intentionally started the fire and is trying to cover up his/her own involvement. Perhaps s/he was trying to collect reward money...The possibilities are endless.

You were mistakenly identified.

Mistaken eyewitness identification leads to lots of false charges for arson in California.

Maybe someone identified an individual that fit your description. Maybe someone saw a car that looked like yours leaving the scene. Maybe some of your belongings were found in the fire...

There are a number of reasons why you may have been mistakenly identified as the individual who set the fire...it's just a matter of persuading the judge and/or jury that you have a good alibi.

While it's true that arson is often committed to hide another crime, as an act of domestic violence, for financial gain, or for a host of other reasons...the bottom line is that this isn't always the case.

Your California arson defense attorney knows how to cross-examine the prosecution's expert witnesses, to effectively challenge the charge that you (1) intentionally (or even recklessly) set a fire, or (2) were even responsible for the incident.

In addition, arson criminal defense lawyers typically rely on their own expert witnesses who know how to explain to a judge and jury that typical "arson indicators" such as

  • crazed glass,
  • melted copper wiring,
  • melted steel, and
  • uneven burn patterns

aren't always a reliable way to conclude that arson was the cause of the fire at all.

5. Arson and Related Offenses

5.1. California Penal Code 187 first-degree murder

California murder is the unlawful killing of another person with "malice aforethought" (which means a deliberate intent to kill or a reckless disregard for human life).49 When a murder is committed during the perpetration (or the attempted perpetration) of arson, it is considered first-degree murder.50

First-degree murder subjects you to (1) 25 years to life in prison, (2) life in prison without the possibility of parole, or (3) the death penalty.51

This is the case even if the killing is unintentional, as long as you intentionally committed arson. This is what's known as the California felony-murder rule. 52

The felony-murder rule is how Raymond Lee Oyler (the man convicted of arson for the 2006 Esperanza fire in Riverside County) received the death penalty. Oyler...a reported serial arsonist...ignited the Esperanza wildfire just south of Cabazon in the middle of the night during a Santa Ana windstorm. The fire quickly grew out of control, killing five fireman, livestock, and wildlife, and destroying 54 homes, other structures, and vehicles.

It should be noted that the death penalty is typically difficult to secure in an arson case. This case is more of an anomaly, but demonstrates just how severe an arson conviction can be.

It should finally be noted that if you are specifically convicted of first-degree murder in connection with maliciously setting fire to an inhabited structure or inhabited property...in violation of Penal Code 451(b)...your only two sentence options are (1) life in prison without the possibility of parole, or (2) the death penalty.53

5.2. California Penal Code 459 burglary

Although most people believe that you commit burglary by "breaking, entering, and stealing," this isn't always the case. Simply put, entering any building with the intent of committing a felony once inside qualifies as California burglary.54

This means that if you enter someone else's structure or property...intending willfully or maliciously to set a fire once inside...prosecutors could charge you with Penal Code 451 arson and Penal Code 459 burglary.

Burglary of an inhabited home is a felony...whereas burglary of any other structure (like someone else's car) is a wobblers.55

5.3. California Penal Code 602 trespass

California criminal "trespass" & "trespassing" laws prohibit entering another person's property without permission to do so.56 Put another way, it is an illegal intrusion that interferes with the another person's property rights.

Trespass is different from burglary in that it only requires that you set foot on someone else's land...not that you enter a building.

This means that if you unlawfully enter another person's property and then either willfully OR recklessly set fire to that property, you could face charges for both
arson or reckless burning and criminal trespass. In most cases, trespass is a misdemeanor.57

5.4. California insurance fraud

As previously mentioned, you can't be convicted of arson if you burn is your own personal property...UNLESS you set that fire with the intent to commit fraud).58 This is most commonly seen in connection with insurance fraud.

If you set fire to your own home or other property in order to collect money from your insurance company based on a claim for an "accidental" fire, prosecutors could charge you with arson and insurance fraud.

Call Us for Help
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If you or loved one is charged with Penal Code 451 and 452 PC arson and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.

For information on Nevada arson laws, please see our page on Nevada arson laws.

Online Resources:

The California Arson Hotline: 1-800-468-4408. Maintained by the California Department of Fire and Forestry Protection's Sacramento law enforcement section, the hotline takes reports of arson and offers rewards to those who provide information about a suspected arsonist.

California Department of Forestry
California state enforcement of arson laws.

International Association of Arson Investigators
The IAAC is a national organization supporting law enforcement officers that investigate arson and arson related crimes.

California Conference of Arson Investigators
The California Conference of Arson Investigators is an association of arson investigators with over 1000 members. It is the longest running and most active arson enforcement association of its type in the nation.

Insurance Committee for Arson Control
National network of insurance agencies working with law enforcement to combat arson in the United States.

Legal References:

1California Penal Code 451 PC -- Arson of structure, forest land or property; great bodily injury; inhabited structure or property; owned property; punishment [Malicious arson]. ("A person is guilty of arson when he or she willfully and maliciously sets fire to or burns or causes to be burned or who aids, counsels, or procures the burning of, any structure, forest land, or property.")

See also California Penal Code 452 PC -- Unlawfully causing a fire of any structure, forest land or property; great bodily injury; inhabited structure or property; punishment [Reckless arson]. ("A person is guilty of unlawfully causing a fire when he recklessly sets fire to or burns or causes to be burned, any structure, forest land or property.")

2 California Penal Code 451 PC - Malicious arson. ("(d) Arson of property is a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months, two, or three years. For purposes of this paragraph, arson of property does not include one burning or causing to be burned his or her own personal property unless there is an intent to defraud or there is injury to another person or another person's structure, forest land, or property.")

See also California Penal Code PC - Reckless arson. ("(d) Unlawfully causing a fire of property is a misdemeanor. For purposes of this paragraph, unlawfully causing a fire of property does not include one burning or causing to be burned his own personal property unless there is injury to another person or to another person's structure, forest land or property.")

3 California Penal Code 451 - Malicious arson. ("(a) Arson that causes great bodily injury is a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for five, seven, or nine years. (b) Arson that causes an inhabited structure or inhabited property to burn is a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for three, five, or eight years. (c) Arson of a structure or forest land is a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, four, or six years. (d) Arson of property is a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months, two, or three years. For purposes of this paragraph, arson of property does not include one burning or causing to be burned his or her own personal property unless there is an intent to defraud or there is injury to another person or another person's structure, forest land, or property.")

4 Our California criminal defense attorneys have local criminal law offices in Beverly Hills, Burbank, Glendale, Lancaster, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Pomona, Torrance, Van Nuys, West Covina, and Whittier.

5 Under the "Historical and Statutory Note" section in California Penal Code 451 PC - Malicious arson, it states "Former [California Penal Code] § 451, enacted in 1872, defining "burning", was repealed by Stats.1929, c. 25, § 6." Under the credits, it states that the current Penal Code 451 PC was added by statute in 1979.

With the exception of (1) a 1982 amendment that added provisions that an offender who commits arson while incarcerated will serve his/her sentence consecutive to the sentence for which the individual was already confined and 2) a 1986 amendment that raised the maximum state prison sentence to eight years instead of seven for willfully or maliciously starting a fire, the statutes today read very similar to their original forms (see same).

6 California Penal Code 451 PC -- Malicious arson. ("A person is guilty of arson when he or she willfully and maliciously sets fire to or burns or causes to be burned or who aids, counsels, or procures the burning of, any structure, forest land, or property. (a) Arson that causes great bodily injury is a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for five, seven, or nine years. (b) Arson that causes an inhabited structure or inhabited property to burn is a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for three, five, or eight years. (c) Arson of a structure or forest land is a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, four, or six years. (d) Arson of property is a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months, two, or three years. For purposes of this paragraph, arson of property does not include one burning or causing to be burned his or her own personal property unless there is an intent to defraud or there is injury to another person or another person's structure, forest land, or property. (e) In the case of any person convicted of violating this section while confined in a state prison, prison road camp, prison forestry camp, or other prison camp or prison farm, or while confined in a county jail while serving a term of imprisonment for a felony or misdemeanor conviction, any sentence imposed shall be consecutive to the sentence for which the person was then confined.")

7 California Penal Code 452 PC -- Unlawfully causing a fire [Reckless arson]. ("A person is guilty of unlawfully causing a fire when he recklessly sets fire to or burns or causes to be burned, any structure, forest land or property. (a) Unlawfully causing a fire that causes great bodily injury is a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, four or six years, or by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year, or by a fine, or by both such imprisonment and fine. (b) Unlawfully causing a fire that causes an inhabited structure or inhabited property to burn is a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three or four years, or by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year, or by a fine, or by both such imprisonment and fine. (c) Unlawfully causing a fire of a structure or forest land is a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months, two or three years, or by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than six months, or by a fine, or by both such imprisonment and fine. (d) Unlawfully causing a fire of property is a misdemeanor. For purposes of this paragraph, unlawfully causing a fire of property does not include one burning or causing to be burned his own personal property unless there is injury to another person or to another person's structure, forest land or property. (e) In the case of any person convicted of violating this section while confined in a state prison, prison road camp, prison forestry camp, or other prison camp or prison farm, or while confined in a county jail while serving a term of imprisonment for a felony or misdemeanor conviction, any sentence imposed shall be consecutive to the sentence for which the person was then confined.")

8 Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions ("CALCRIM") 1515 - Simple arson. ("The defendant is charged [in Count ] with arson [in violation of Penal Code section 451(b)]. To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must prove that: 1 The defendant set fire to or burned [or (counseled[,]/ [or] helped[,]/ [or] caused) the burning of] (a structure/forest land/property); AND 2 (He/She) acted willfully and maliciously.")

9 See same, Simple arson. ("To set fire to or burn means to damage or destroy with fire either all or part of something, no matter how small the part.")

10 See same, Simple arson. ("[A structure is any (building/bridge/tunnel/power plant/commercial or public tent).]")

11 See same, Simple arson. ("[Forest land means brush-covered land, cut-over land, forest, grasslands, or woods.]")

12 People v. Reese (1986) 182 Cal.App.3d 737, 740. ("...the different levels of punishment for the different types of property suggests a legislative intent to punish the willful and malicious burning of any personal property such as clothing, whether or not being worn at the time of the fire.")

13 CALCRIM 1515, Simple arson. ("[Property means personal property or land other than forest land.]")

14 In re L.T. (2002) 103 Cal.App.4th 262, 264-65. ("The trash burned does constitute "property" referred to in the arson statute (§ 451). The Penal Code defines "property" to include "personal property," which, in turn, includes "money, goods, chattels, things in action, and evidences of debt." (§ 7, subds. 10, 12; accord, Civ. Code, § 14, subd. 3.) Trash fits within this definition. "Goods" and "chattels" are things that are "visible, tangible, movable" and are "objects of the senses."")

15 CALCRIM 1515, Simple arson. ("[A person does not commit arson if the only thing burned is his or her own personal property, unless he or she acts with the intent to defraud, or the fire also injures someone else or someone else's structure, forest land, or property.]")

16 See same, Simple arson. ("Someone commits an act willfully when he or she does it willingly or on purpose.")

17 See same, Simple arson. ("Someone acts maliciously when he or she intentionally does a wrongful act or when he or she acts with the unlawful intent to defraud, annoy, or injure someone else.")

18 CALCRIM 1532 -- Unlawfully causing a fire [Reckless arson/reckless burning]. ("To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must prove that: [1] The defendant set fire to [,] [or] burned [,] [or caused the burning of] (a structure/forest land/property); AND [2] The defendant did so recklessly.")

19 See same, Reckless arson/reckless burning. ("[A person acts recklessly when (1) he or she is aware that his or her actions present a substantial and unjustifiable risk of causing a fire, (2) he or she ignores that risk, and (3) ignoring the risk is a gross deviation from what a reasonable person would have done in the same situation.]")

20 People v. Budish (1982) 131 Cal.App.3d 1043, 1048. ("Assuming arguendo the small campfire was the source of the fire, the unprecedented wind force at the scene was not a factor which the defendant could have reasonably anticipated. Thus his conduct did not amount to a conscious disregard of the risk in making a small contained campfire during the early morning calm of that day. Nor could his act be characterized as a gross deviation from normal standards of conduct in satisfying a normal desire for an early morning hot drink. The defendant's negligent failure to perceive the risk did not amount to reckless conduct.")

21 See Penal Code 451 PC - Malicious arson; Penal Code 452 PC - Reckless arson.

22California Penal Code 457 PC -- Order for submission to psychiatric or psychological examination. ("Upon conviction of any person for a violation of any provision of this chapter, the court may order that such person, for the purpose of sentencing, submit to a psychiatric or psychological examination.")

23 California Penal Code 452 PC - Reckless arson. ("(d) Unlawfully causing a fire of property is a misdemeanor. For purposes of this paragraph, unlawfully causing a fire of property does not include one burning or causing to be burned his own personal property unless there is injury to another person or to another person's structure, forest land or property.")

24 California Penal Code 672 PC -- Offenses for which no fine prescribed; fine authorized in addition to imprisonment. ("Upon a conviction for any crime punishable by imprisonment in any jail or prison, in relation to which no fine is herein prescribed, the court may impose a fine on the offender not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000) in cases of misdemeanors [such as misdemeanor reckless arson] or ten thousand dollars ($10,000) in cases of felonies, in addition to the imprisonment prescribed.")

25 California Penal Code 452 PC - Reckless arson, subsections (a) - (c).

26 See same, Reckless arson, subsections (a) - (c).

27 California Penal Code 451 PC - Malicious arson, subsections (a) - (d).

28 See California Penal Code 451 PC - Malicious arson. (". (a) Arson that causes great bodily injury is a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for five, seven, or nine years. (b) Arson that causes an inhabited structure or inhabited property to burn is a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for three, five, or eight years. (c) Arson of a structure or forest land is a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, four, or six years. (d) Arson of property is a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months, two, or three years.")

See also California Penal Code 452 PC - Reckless arson. ("(a) Unlawfully causing a fire that causes great bodily injury is a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, four or six years, or by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year, or by a fine, or by both such imprisonment and fine. (b) Unlawfully causing a fire that causes an inhabited structure or inhabited property to burn is a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three or four years, or by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year, or by a fine, or by both such imprisonment and fine. (c) Unlawfully causing a fire of a structure or forest land is a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months, two or three years, or by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than six months, or by a fine, or by both such imprisonment and fine.")

29 California Penal Code 455 PC - Attempts [to commit arson]; acts preliminary or in furtherance; punishment; attempt to burn defined. ("Any person who willfully and maliciously attempts to set fire to or attempts to burn or to aid, counsel or procure the burning of any structure, forest land or property, or who commits any act preliminary thereto, or in furtherance thereof, is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months, two or three years. The placing or distributing of any flammable, explosive or combustible material or substance, or any device in or about any structure, forest land or property in an arrangement or preparation with intent to eventually willfully and maliciously set fire to or burn same, or to procure the setting fire to or burning of the same shall, for the purposes of this act constitute an attempt to burn such structure, forest land or property.")

30 California Penal Code 672 PC -- Offenses for which no fine prescribed; fine authorized in addition to imprisonment. ("Upon a conviction for any crime punishable by imprisonment in any jail or prison, in relation to which no fine is herein prescribed, the court may impose a fine on the offender not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000) in cases of misdemeanors or ten thousand dollars ($10,000) in cases of felonies [such as felony arson or felony reckless burning], in addition to the imprisonment prescribed.")

See also California Penal Code 456 PC -- Fine upon felony conviction [for arson]; fine based upon pecuniary gain; amounts. ("(a) Upon conviction for any felony violation of this chapter [California arson laws], in addition to the penalty prescribed, the court may impose a fine not to exceed fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) unless a greater amount is provided by law. (b) When any person is convicted of a violation of any provision of this chapter and the reason he committed the violation was for pecuniary gain, in addition to the penalty prescribed and instead of the fine provided in subdivision (a), the court may impose a fine of twice the anticipated or actual gross gain.")

31 California Penal Code 1192.7 PC - California three strikes law. ("(c) As used in this section, "serious felony" means any of the following: . . . (14) arson.")

32 California Penal Code 452.1 PC -- Aggravated arson; sentence enhancements; circumstances. ("(a) Notwithstanding any other law, any person who is convicted of a felony violation of [Penal Section] Section 452 PC [reckless arson] shall be punished by a one-, two-, or three-year enhancement for each of the following circumstances that is found to be true: (1) The defendant has been previously convicted of a felony violation of [Penal Code] Section 451 or 452. (2) A firefighter, peace officer, or other emergency personnel suffered great bodily injury as a result of the offense. The additional term provided by this subdivision shall be imposed whenever applicable, including any instance in which there is a violation of subdivision (a) of Section 452. (3) The defendant proximately caused great bodily injury to more than one victim in any single violation of Section 452. The additional term provided by this subdivision shall be imposed whenever applicable, including any instance in which there is a violation of subdivision (a) of Section 452. (4) The defendant proximately caused multiple structures to burn in any single violation of [California Penal Code] Section 452 [PC "reckless arson"]. (b) The additional term specified in subdivision (a) of Section 452.1 shall not be imposed unless the existence of any fact required under this section shall be alleged in the accusatory pleading and either admitted by the defendant in open court or found to be true by the trier of fact.")

See also California Penal Code 451.1 PC -- Arson; sentence enhancements; circumstances. ("(a) Notwithstanding any other law, any person who is convicted of a felony violation of [Penal Code] Section 451 PC [malicious arson] shall be punished by a three-, four-, or five-year enhancement if one or more of the following circumstances is found to be true: (1) The defendant has been previously convicted of a felony violation of [Penal Code] Section 451 or 452 PC. (2) A firefighter, peace officer, or other emergency personnel suffered great bodily injury as a result of the offense. The additional term provided by this subdivision shall be imposed whenever applicable, including any instance in which there is a violation of subdivision (a) of Section 451. (3) The defendant proximately caused great bodily injury to more than one victim in any single violation of Section 451. The additional term provided by this subdivision shall be imposed whenever applicable, including any instance in which there is a violation of subdivision (a) of Section 451. (4) The defendant proximately caused multiple structures to burn in any single violation of [California Penal Code] Section 451 PC [arson]. (5) The defendant committed arson as described in subdivision (a), (b), or (c) of Section 451 and the arson was caused by use of a device designed to accelerate the fire or delay ignition. (b) The additional term specified in subdivision (a) shall not be imposed unless the existence of any fact required under this section shall be alleged in the accusatory pleading and either admitted by the defendant in open court or found to be true by the trier of fact.")

33 California Penal Code 1170.78 PC -- Arson; retaliation against owner or occupant; aggravation of crime. ("Upon a conviction of a violation of [Penal Code] Section 451 [PC California arson law], the fact that the person committed the offense in retaliation against the owner or occupant of the property or structure burned, or against one believed by the person to be the owner or occupant of the property or structure burned, for any eviction or other legal action taken by the owner or occupant, or believed owner or occupant, shall be a circumstance in aggravation of the crime in imposing a term under subdivision (b) of Section 1170.")

34 California Penal Code 1170.8 PC -- Arson, robbery, or assault in places of worship; aggravation of crime. ("(b) Upon conviction of any person for a violation of [Penal Code] Section 451 or 453 [PC under California arson law], the fact that the person intentionally burned, or intended to burn, a church, synagogue, or building owned and occupied by a religious educational institution, or any other place primarily used as a place of worship where religious services are regularly conducted, shall be considered a circumstance in aggravation of the crime in imposing a term under subdivision (b) of [Penal Code] Section 1170.")

35 California Penal Code 451.5 PC -- Aggravated arson; factors; punishment. ("(a) Any person who willfully, maliciously, deliberately, with premeditation, and with intent to cause injury to one or more persons or to cause damage to property under circumstances likely to produce injury to one or more persons or to cause damage to one or more structures or inhabited dwellings, sets fire to, burns, or causes to be burned, or aids, counsels, or procures the burning of any residence, structure, forest land, or property is guilty of aggravated arson if one or more of the following aggravating factors exists: (1) The defendant has been previously convicted of arson on one or more occasions within the past 10 years. (2)(A) The fire caused property damage and other losses in excess of five million six hundred fifty thousand dollars ($5,650,000). (B) In calculating the total amount of property damage and other losses under subparagraph (A), the court shall consider the cost of fire suppression. It is the intent of the Legislature that this paragraph be reviewed within five years to consider the effects of inflation on the dollar amount stated herein. For that reason, this paragraph shall remain in effect until January 1, 2010, and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted statute, which is enacted before January 1, 2010, deletes or extends that date. (3) The fire caused damage to, or the destruction of, five or more inhabited structures. (b) Any person who is convicted under subdivision (a) shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for 10 years to life. (c) Any person who is sentenced under subdivision (b) shall not be eligible for release on parole until 10 calendar years have elapsed.")

36 California Penal Code 1203.06 PC -- Probation or suspension of execution or imposition of sentence prohibited for certain crimes [including aggravated arson]; allegations of ineligibility. ("(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, probation shall not be granted to, nor shall the execution or imposition of sentence be suspended for, nor shall a finding bringing the defendant within this section be stricken pursuant to [Penal Code] Section 1385 for, any of the following persons: . . . (3) Aggravated arson, in violation of [California Penal Code] Section 451.5 PC.

37 CALCRIM 1500 -- Aggravated arson. ("[A (dwelling/ [or] structure) is inhabited if someone lives there and either is present or has left but intends to return.] [A (dwelling/ [or] structure) is inhabited if someone used it as a dwelling and left only because a natural or other disaster caused him or her to leave.] [A (dwelling/ [or] structure) is not inhabited if the former residents have moved out and do not intend to return, even if some personal property remains inside.]")

38 See same.

39 People v. Green (1983) 146 Cal.App.3d 369, 379. ("Viewed in this context, the words "inhabited structure" in [Penal Code] section 451(b) [arson law] must be read together; any other interpretation produces an absurd result. Appellant was convicted of "arson of an inhabited structure" because he started a fire in a large apartment building, thus endangering the lives of all of the building's occupants. Yet he argues in effect that the timely departure of his estranged wife makes his act less blameworthy. This is contrary to public policy and contrary to what the Legislature intended when it enacted section 451 [California's arson law].")

40 California Penal Code 457.1 PC -- Arson and attempted arson; persons convicted of arson; registration while residing California [Registration after arson conviction]. This Penal Code section specifically addresses the variety of conditions that are imposed in connection with registering as a California convicted arsonist.

41 California Penal Code 290 PC -- The Sex Offender Registration Act. If you are convicted of certain sex crimes, California law requires you to register as a sex offender pursuant to Penal Code 290. This code sets forth the requirements for registration, as well as a list of the specific offenses that require this lifetime registration requirement.

42 California Penal Code 475.1 PC - Registration after arson conviction.

43 See same, Registration after arson conviction.

44 See same, Registration after arson conviction. ("(h) Any person required to register under this section who violates any of the provisions thereof is guilty of a misdemeanor. Any person who has been convicted of arson or attempted arson and who is required to register under this section who willfully violates any of the provisions thereof is guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be sentenced to serve a term of not less than 90 days nor more than one year in a county jail. In no event does the court have the power to absolve a person who willfully violates this section from the obligation of spending at least 90 days of confinement in a county jail and of completing probation of at least one year.")

45 See same, Registration after arson conviction. ("(l) Nothing in this section shall be construed to conflict with [California Penal Code] Section 1203.4 concerning termination of probation and release from penalties and disabilities of probation. A person required to register under this section may initiate a proceeding under Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 4852.01) of Title 6 of Part 3 and, upon obtaining a certificate of rehabilitation, shall be relieved of any further duty to register under this section. This certificate shall not relieve the petitioner of the duty to register under this section for any offense subject to this section of which he or she is convicted in the future. Any person who is required to register under this section due to a misdemeanor conviction shall be relieved of the requirement to register if that person is granted relief pursuant to [California Penal Code] Section 1203.4.")

46 See same, Registration after arson conviction.

47 San Bernardino criminal defense attorney Michael Scafiddi represents clients accused of California arson charges...as well as all other criminal offenses...in San Bernardino and Riverside County courthouses, including the Murrieta Southwest Justice Center and courthouses in Fontana, Banning, Barstow, Palm Springs, and Joshua Tree.

48 CALCRIM 1532 - Reckless arson/reckless burning. ("[A person acts recklessly when (1) he or she does an act that presents a substantial and unjustifiable risk of causing a fire but (2) he or she is unaware of the risk because he or she is voluntarily intoxicated. Intoxication is voluntary if the person willingly used any intoxicating drink, drug, or other substance knowing that it could produce an intoxicating effect.]")

49 California Penal Code 187 PC -- Murder, defined [may be charged along with arson]. ("(a) Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought.") See also CALCRIM 520 -- Murder with malice aforethought. ("The defendant acted with express malice if (he/she) unlawfully intended to kill. The defendant acted with implied malice if: [1] (He/She) intentionally committed an act; [2] The natural and probable consequences of the act were dangerous to human life; [3] At the time (he/she) acted, (he/she) knew (his/her) act was dangerous to human life; AND [4] (He/She) deliberately acted with conscious disregard for (human/ [or] fetal) life.")

50 California Penal Code 189 PC -- Murder; degrees. ("All murder which is perpetrated by means of a destructive device or explosive, a weapon of mass destruction, knowing use of ammunition designed primarily to penetrate metal or armor, poison, lying in wait, torture, or by any other kind of willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing, or which is committed in the perpetration of, or attempt to perpetrate, arson...is murder of the first degree.")

51 California Penal Code 190 PC -- Punishment for murder. ("(a) Every person guilty of murder in the first degree [including murder committed through arson] shall be punished by death, imprisonment in the state prison for life without the possibility of parole, or imprisonment in the state prison for a term of 25 years to life.")

52 California Jury Instructions - Criminal 8.21 - Felony-murder rule. ("The unlawful killing of a human being, whether intentional, unintentional or accidental, which occurs during the commission or attempted commission of the crime of [arson] is murder of the first degree when the perpetrator had the specific intent to commit that crime.")

53 California Penal Code 190.2 PC -- Death penalty or life imprisonment without parole; special circumstances. ("(a) The penalty for a defendant who is found guilty of murder in the first degree is death or imprisonment in the state prison for life without the possibility of parole if one or more of the following special circumstances has been found under [Penal Code] Section 190.4 to be true: . . . (17) The murder was committed while the defendant was engaged in, or was an accomplice in, the commission of, attempted commission of, or the immediate flight after committing, or attempting to commit, the following felonies: . . . (H) Arson in violation of subdivision (b) of [California Penal Code] Section 451.")

54 California Penal Code 459 PC-- Burglary, defined. ("Every person who enters any house, room, apartment, tenement, shop, warehouse, store, mill, barn, stable, outhouse or other building, tent, vessel, as defined in Section 21 of the Harbors and Navigation Code, floating home, as defined in subdivision (d) of Section 18075.55 of the Health and Safety Code, railroad car, locked or sealed cargo container, whether or not mounted on a vehicle, trailer coach, as defined in Section 635 of the Vehicle Code, any house car, as defined in Section 362 of the Vehicle Code, inhabited camper, as defined in Section 243 of the Vehicle Code, vehicle as defined by the Vehicle Code, when the doors are locked, aircraft as defined by Section 21012 of the Public Utilities Code, or mine or any underground portion thereof, with intent to commit grand or petit larceny or any felony [including California felony arson] is guilty of burglary.")

55 See California Penal Code 460 PC; California Penal Code 461 PC.

56 California Penal Code 602 PC - Criminal trespass [may be charged along with arson]. ("Except as provided in paragraph (2) of subdivision (v), subdivision (x), and Section 602.8, every person who willfully commits a trespass by any of the following acts is guilty of a misdemeanor: . . . (k) Entering any lands, whether unenclosed or enclosed by fence, for the purpose of injuring any property or property rights or with the intention of interfering with, obstructing, or injuring any lawful business or occupation carried on by the owner of the land, the owner's agent or by the person in lawful possession.")

57 See same, Criminal trespass [may be charged along with arson].

58 California Penal Code 451 PC - Malicious arson. ("(d) Arson of property is a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months, two, or three years. For purposes of this paragraph, arson of property does not include one burning or causing to be burned his or her own personal property unless there is an intent to defraud or there is injury to another person or another person's structure, forest land, or property.")

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