Arson California | California PC 451

Fire is undoubtedly one of humankind’s greatest discoveries. It has allowed people to stay warm since the dawn of time, and without it, most of what is familiar to us would not be possible. Unfortunately, fire can also be more than deadly – taking with it not only lives but also dwellings – when used with bad intention or when a simple disregard for prevention gets out of control.

Is it Arson or Reckless Burning?

According to Penal Code 451, arson is a malicious or willful act, with intent to harm persons or property.  It is an extremely serious charge and, if convicted, you must register as a convicted arsonist and report your whereabouts to the local police; failing to register can incur up to one year in jail.

Penal Code 452, is considered the “second arson” law, is generally referred to as the “reckless burning law” and it involves burning of a structure, forest or open land.  If you toss a cigarette into dry brush and it ends up burning property or harming another person, this is considered reckless and can also incur a felony charge.  In this case you were not just being negligent or careless, you were aware there was a risk involved and chose to ignore that possibility.

What are the Penalties for Arson?

Depending upon the circumstances of the incident and the subsequent amount of property damage, the penalties for arson can be wide ranging. For instance, arson that causes great bodily harm – including death – can incur a felony charge. Additionally, recklessly setting a fire that causes millions of dollars in damage to property can also bring about a felony arson charge – even if the intent of the fire was not malicious in nature.

With felony arson, convicted individuals may be facing many years in prison and fines that range into the tens of thousands of dollars or higher. In cases of misdemeanor arson, fines typically do not exceed $2,000 and jail time is usually less than one year in a county jail.

What is the Bail for Arson?

In California, individuals charged with felony arson can expect to qualify for bail amounts that range between $20,000 and $500,000, depending on the specific charges and circumstances.

For instance, arson committed against an uninhabited structure may incur a bail amount of $75,000, while arson committed during an officially declared state of emergency hike the bail amounts closer to $350,000.

Arson requires an intelligent defense, best served by the freedom to meet with a specialized attorney on your own terms.  Of course, getting back to your job and your family as soon as possible will also keep you on track and more financially capable of handling necessary expenses.

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