Many individuals in California wonder about the definition of first-degree arson. Technically, California doesn’t often use the term “first-degree arson.” However, when this term gets used, it usually refers to arson involving an inhabited or occupied structure.
The state of California uses two primary charges to handle arson accusations. These charges include malicious arson and reckless burning.
The Simmrin Law Group can help you learn more about both malicious arson and reckless burning. We are here to answer your questions when you call
The Difference Between First- and Second-Degree Arson
In some states, first-degree arson is considered the most serious kind of arson charge. As we mentioned, first-degree arson can refer to acts of arson involving inhabiting buildings, like:
- Places of worship
In contrast, the term second-degree arson often refers to acts of arson involving unoccupied buildings. Setting fire to an abandoned barn could qualify as second-degree arson in some states. Generally, first-degree arson will lead to harsher penalties.
However, you should know that the state of California does not always use these distinctions. You can learn more about the arson charges in use in our state if you keep reading.
Malicious Arson vs. Reckless Burning
The court system of California uses two basic laws to prosecute acts of arson. These laws include:
Malicious arson is the more serious arson charge used in our state. The state used Penal Code § 451 to prosecute malicious arson. Individuals face malicious arson charges if they:
- Set fire to a structure, property, or forested land
- With malicious intent
- While acting intentionally
Individuals display malice if they try to hurt, annoy, or defraud someone. The state always treats malicious arson as a felony-level offense.
Some individuals in Los Angeles will face reckless burning charges. Penal Code § 452 handles reckless burning accusations. These charges are used if someone starts a fire by accident or without the intent to harm someone else.
Reckless burning is a “wobbler.” Wobblers lead to misdemeanor OR felony charges. An arson lawyer in Los Angeles can help you face either of these charges head-on. Call our team right now at
Jail Time and Penalties for Arson in California
The results of an arson conviction in Los Angeles are often very serious. These charges do not all lead to the same penalties. Individuals face different consequences depending on what they are convicted of.
Penalties for Malicious Arson
Malicious arson is always treated as a felony. However, this charge does not always have the same results. Individuals will face fines and up to:
- Three years of prison time if they set fire to someone’s personal property
- Six years of prison time if they set fire to forest land or an uninhabited structure
- Eight years of prison time if they set fire to an inhabited structure
Finally, individuals will face more prison time if they engage in arson that harms someone else. A criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles can help you review these penalties in further detail.
Penalties for Misdemeanor Reckless Burning
Reckless burning can lead to either misdemeanor or felony charges. Misdemeanor charges are less serious. A misdemeanor conviction can lead to fines and jail time of six months in many cases. However, individuals can face one year of jail time if they are convicted of:
- Misdemeanor reckless burning of an inhabited structure
- Misdemeanor reckless burning causing great bodily injury
Penalties for Felony Reckless Burnings
Finally, some people in California are accused of felony-level reckless burning. A conviction for a felony under PC 452 can lead to prison time of up to:
- Three years for burning forest land or an uninhabited structure
- Four years for burning an inhabited structure
- Six years for a fire that caused great bodily injury
Start working with a property crime lawyer if you are accused of any kind of arson here in Los Angeles.
Defenses for Arson Charges in Los Angeles
A criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles can help you handle any kind of arson charge. Members of our team can take steps to get your charges reduced. We can even focus on getting your charges dismissed in some cases.
We know the strategies that work to deal with malicious arson and reckless burning. We can work to show that:
- You accidentally set a fire.
- You were not acting maliciously.
- You were falsely accused of arson.
Allow us to handle all of your legal needs after you are accused of arson. Get started by reaching out to us right now.
Get Help with First-Degree Arson Charges Today
First-degree arson is a serious criminal charge used in some states. In California, you can face charges for malicious arson and reckless burning. Find out more about these charges by contacting the Simmrin Law Group for a free consultation. You can reach members of our team if you call