Intentionally setting fire to property, forest land, or a structure in California can lead to criminal charges. Generally, this act may be prosecuted under California Penal Code Section 451 and 452: Arson. These two penal codes deal with:
- California Penal Code Section 451: Malicious Arson
- California Penal Code Section 452: Reckless Burning / Reckless Arson
You can focus on the differences between these charges right here. Let the Simmrin Law Group help you review the penalties for PC 451 and 452. You can also use this article to consider some legal defenses to arson accusations in California.
The Legal Definition of PC 451: Malicious Arson
- On forest land
- In a structure
- On someone’s property
Individuals must be acting purposefully and maliciously in order to be prosecuted under PC 451. According to this penal code, individuals demonstrate malicious intent if they are acting to hurt, annoy, or defraud another person. Note that malicious arson is always treated as a felony in the state of California.
The Legal Definition of PC 452: Reckless Burning / Reckless Arson
Individuals can be charged with reckless burning – or unlawfully causing a fire – if they recklessly start a fire in forest land, a structure, or a person’s property. As you can see, so far this charge is very similar to malicious arson. The difference deals with intent.
Individuals can be charged with malicious arson if they start a fire to injure a person or damage property. Reckless arson charges are used if someone knows their actions could lead to a fire and they proceed to act in a way that would be seen as dangerous by a reasonable individual.
This means that people can be charged with reckless burning even if they didn’t intend to hurt anyone else. Merely disregarding the safety of others can lead to PC 452 charges. Reckless arson may be treated as a misdemeanor or a felony by the court system in California.
The Penalties for a PC 451 or PC 452 Conviction in California
There are a number of different penalties that can be used to prosecute arson in the state of California. Let’s go over these penalties from the least severe to the most severe.
Misdemeanor PC 452 Charges
Individuals charged with misdemeanor PC 452 can face the least severe penalties for an act of arson. Generally, individuals are only charged with a misdemeanor if they recklessly burn personal property. The penalties for a misdemeanor conviction include:
- Fines: up to $1,000
- Jail time: up to six months
Felony PC 452 Charges
Felony reckless burning charges can apply if an individual:
- Burns forested land or a structure
- Sets a fire causing a great bodily injury
Individuals can face up to six years of time in state prison for a felony PC 452 conviction.
Felony PC 451 Charges
As we mentioned, malicious arson is always charged as a felony in California. A conviction for PC 451 can lead to:
- Fines: up to $50,000
- Jail time: up to nine years
Note that these are only basic penalties for an arson conviction. In some circumstances, the penalties for an act of arson can be much harsher. A property crimes lawyer in Los Angeles can go over all of the potential results of an arson conviction with you today.
The Defenses for Arson Charges in California
It’s important that you get professional help right away if you are accused of arson in California. A criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles can review your case if you are charged under PC 451 or PC 452. Your lawyer could argue:
You Set a Fire by Accident
Arson charges in California should not apply if you started a fire accidentally. If you were not acting maliciously or recklessly when the fire started, you could avoid a conviction under either PC 451 or PC 452.
You Were Wrongfully Accused of Arson
Not every accusation of arson in California is legitimate. You could be blamed for starting a fire that you had nothing to do with. Your lawyer could work to demonstrate your innocence in this situation, helping you successfully resolve the charges you are facing.
Speak with a Criminal Defense Lawyer Regarding Arson Charges
You can get professional help handling California Penal Code Section 451 and 452: Arson accusations. Get legal advice now by contacting the Simmrin Law Group’s criminal defense lawyers in Los Angeles. Fill out our online contact form or call (310) 997-4688 to get started.
You can begin building your defense now with a FREE consultation.