Arson is defined as the malicious burning of one’s property. The property can be a home, office building, structure, or land. You can be charged with an arson-related crime even when the property belongs to you, if the act was committed with malicious intent to harm or deceive.
Many times, arson cases can become complicated, especially if a fire or explosion started from another incident, and intentions are unclear. Nevertheless, California’s strict arson laws can lead to harsh penalties for the accused. You may face extended prison time, hefty fines, and other negative consequences.
When you are dealing with an arson crime, you will need an experienced San Diego arson and property crimes lawyer on your side to ensure the best possible outcome. A dedicated San Diego arson lawyer at McElfresh Law is here to help. Contact us today to meet with attorney Jessica Mcelfresh, and get your legal questions answered.
What Constitutes as Arson?
According to , a person can be found 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.” Factors that determine arson crimes include:
- Intent: you must commit the crime with malicious intent to cause damage. Evidence should show that you purposefully planned out the process, gathered the tools to set a fire, and carried out the act. You could have also intended to harm another person through other means that resulted in fire or explosion as a side effect.
- Recklessness: recklessness means that the offender consciously disregarded a “substantial and unjustifiable risk that his or her act will set fire to, burn, or cause to burn” any type of property. This risk would be considered a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would expect. Essentially, a crime is committed recklessly when the violator is aware of substantial risks associated with his actions, and yet chooses to ignore them.
- Property Damage: arson typically involves fire or an explosive force that results in damage to one’s property. Under California law, property can be defined as real property or personal property, inhabited for dwelling, commercial, or public use. The property can be occupied, or vacant. You may also be convicted of arson for setting fire to your own property for fraudulent purposes, such as illegally collecting on an insurance policy.
Penalties for Arson Crimes in California
The severity of punishments for arson crimes in California can vary depending on the circumstances. It can lead to a felony or misdemeanor charge. Some examples of penalties for arson include:
- Felony punishable by imprisonment in state prison for 5-9 years: when arson causes great bodily injury to others.
- Felony punishable by imprisonment in state prison for 3-8 years: when arson causes an inhabited structure or property to burn.
- Felony punishable by imprisonment in state prison for 2-6 years: when arson causes damage to a structure or forestland.
- Felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months- 3 years: when arson damages someone else’s property with intent to harm, or causes damage to one’s own property with intent to defraud.
In addition, you may have to pay fines and restitution up to $50,000, or an amount equivalent to the cost of damage. Repeat-offenders will also typically face harsher sentences.
How a San Diego Arson Lawyer at McElfresh Law Can Help
Having to handle an arson-related charge alone can be stressful for you and your family. At McElfresh Law, we believe that every individual should be provided with quality representation. When you are facing criminal charges in the San Diego area, don’t hesitate to contact attorney Jessica McElfresh to get the help you need. She has years of experience practicing in California courts, and is knowledgeable of federal and local arson laws. She will be able to help you build a strong defense, and negotiate with the prosecutor or judge to reach a deal. With the right attorney by your side, you can potentially reduce or reverse the charges against you.
Contact McElfresh Law today to schedule a free and confidential case evaluation with an experienced San Diego arson and property crimes attorney. Call us at (858) 756-7107, and we can walk through the next steps together.