There is an important difference between simple and aggravated arson in California. Many arson charges are considered “simple” arson. Simple arson charges can apply anytime someone willfully sets fire to a:
Aggravated arson charges only apply in some cases. Generally, individuals only face aggravated arson charges if they have a past arson conviction or if they caused a very large amount of damage. Review these charges in more detail with the Simmrin Law Group. Contact us to get additional help by calling
How California Defines Simple Arson
“Simple” arson charges are also called “malicious arson” in the state of California. The court system uses Penal Code §451 to prosecute simple (or malicious) arson. Individuals face charges for malicious arson if they willfully set fire to a forest, property, or building while planning to:
- Hurt someone
- Defraud someone
- Annoy someone
Individuals should only face malicious arson charges if they act in a willful and purposeful manner. These charges do not apply to people who accidentally start a fire. The state of California always treats malicious (or simple) arson as a felony.
How California Defines Aggravated Arson
Individuals sometimes face charges for aggravated arson in the state of California. Penal Code § 451.5 deals with aggravated arson charges. Basically, the court will “upgrade” basic arson into aggravated arson if the accused:
- Was convicted of arson at least one time in the last 10 years
- Caused more than $8,300,000 in damage with an act of arson
- Damaged at least five inhabited structures with an act of arson
Individuals face harsher penalties if they are accused of aggravated arson. This charge is still considered a felony in the state of California. You can discuss both charges with an arson lawyer in Los Angeles. Start getting answers by calling us at
Penalties for Simple and Aggravated Arson
Simple and aggravated arson are both felony offenses here in Los Angeles. However, they do not lead to the same penalties. A charge for simple (or malicious) arson in California will lead to fines. It can also lead to prison time of up to:
- Three years if the arson only affected someone’s property
- Six years if the arson affected forest land or an uninhabited property
- Eight years if the arson affected an inhabited structure
- Nine years if the arson caused someone a great bodily injury
Aggravated arson can lead to life in prison in the state of California. This means that someone could spend the rest of their life behind bars. A property crimes lawyer in Los Angeles can help you face either of these charges.
Simple Arson vs Reckless Burning
There is another charge used to prosecute arson in California that we have not yet discussed. The court system also prosecutes individuals for “reckless burning” using Penal Code § 452. Reckless burning occurs if someone steps a fire by acting in a reckless or risky way.
Individuals who do not behave in the way a reasonable person would end up starting fires in California. For example, someone who started a campfire and then poured an accelerant over it could end up causing a forest fire. This could lead to reckless burning charges.
Reckless burning is not treated as harshly as simple (or malicious) arson. However, reckless burning will still lead to fines and a period of incarceration. Discuss these charges with a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles now.
Defenses Against Simple and Aggravated Arson in Los Angeles
The Simmrin Law Group can help if you are accused of simple or aggravated arson in California. We understand the defenses that work to handle both of these charges. Our legal team can work to show that:
- You did not act maliciously to start a fire
- You were not trying to hurt anyone or commit fraud
- You were falsely accused of arson
Rely on us to build a strong defense for you if you are facing any kind of arson accusation. We’re ready to take steps to get your charges reduced or even dismissed. We’ll also stand up for you in court here in California.
A Lawyer Can Help You Build a Defense Against Simple or Aggravated Arson Charges
The Simmrin Law Group can explain the difference between simple and aggravated arson for you. We’ll help you handle these charges, starting right now. Just call us at