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California arson cases are among the most complex and challenging that are taken on by criminal defense firms. Successful management of these cases depends upon thorough investigation, tenacity and an enormous amount of legal skill. Defendants need an experienced, aggressive Los Angeles arson attorney to help them through the process. If you are being investigated for arson or have already been charged with arson in California, then call us today. The sooner you hire us to defend your rights, the sooner this ordeal can be put to an end.
How Is Arson Defined in California?
California law divides arson into two major categories. The first of these is straightforward arson, which involves the willful and malicious setting of a fire. The second category is known as reckless arson, sometimes called reckless burning. Dividing the main two categories is the defendant’s state of mind. In the first category, the person charged with arson actually intended to start a fire. In the second, the fire may have been purely an accident caused by the reckless or negligent behavior of an individual.
Arson may involve the burning of any kind of structure, forest land or other miscellaneous property. Frequently, the structure, land or property involved in the fire does not belong to the person accused of burning it. However, it is possible for a person to be accused of committing arson on their own land or property. This may be the case if a home or other structure is involved or if law enforcement believes that the fire was started for fraudulent purposes, such as collecting on an insurance policy. If you have been accused of this crime, then you need a skilled, capable Los Angeles arson attorney working on your defense.
Who Can Be Accused of Arson in Los Angeles?
If police investigators believe that an individual is guilty of setting a fire, whether the blaze was intentional or not, then that person may be charged with arson. However, the state regards this crime as a particularly serious one. This means they have the power to charge other people with arson, even if those people did not take part in the actual burning. Under California law, any person who provides assistance or equipment to the person who set the fire may be charged with arson. Similarly, someone who provides counsel or simply knows about the plans for an arson attack may also be charged. This means that even if you had no direct involvement in the fire you could be facing serious criminal consequences. It’s in your best interests to take proactive steps to protect your rights by contacting a Los Angeles arson lawyer.
Consequences of an Arson Conviction in Los Angeles
Anyone who is convicted of being involved in arson in California is liable to be facing serious jail time as well as substantial fines. California courts look at several elements when determining what consequences should be levied on those who are convicted of arson. Some of these elements include the type of property that was burned, whether or not anyone was injured or killed in the blaze and whether the fire was set willfully or recklessly.
Accordingly, someone accused of reckless burning may only be charged at the misdemeanor level. If it is found that the crime involved the destruction of forest land or a structure or if the blaze caused bodily injury to anyone, then it’s possible for the misdemeanor to be turned into a felony. On the other hand, anyone who willfully and maliciously sets a fire will always be charged at the felony level. Additional charges may be brought if someone is killed in the fire. Usually, this means a charge of felony murder will be added to felony arson.
Misdemeanor reckless arson charges may result in a sentence of up to six months in county jail. If the prosecutor decides to charge reckless arson as a felony, then the punishment may be 16 months, two years or three years in state prison. Burning of structures or property that is inhabited may mean longer sentences of up to four years while a fire that causes bodily injuries may bring a sentence of as much as six years.
Someone found guilty of malicious arson may be looking at similar 16 month, two year or three year sentences for the destruction of personal property. Arson that destroys structures or forest lands may mean a prison sentence of as much as six years. Stiffer penalties of up to eight or nine years may be brought against those who are convicted of arson involving inhabited structures or great bodily harm to others. Anyone convicted of malicious arson may be responsible for up to $10,000 in fines. Additional fines may be levied if the arson was in conjunction with an act of fraud.
Experienced Los Angeles Arson Attorneys
Defending against arson charges in California is a delicate and complex task. It requires finely-honed investigative skills and an unusual degree of legal knowledge. Considering the seriousness of the penalties for an arson conviction, it is essential to hire a knowledgeable and experienced Los Angeles arson lawyer.
Regardless of the degree to which you may or may not have been involved in an act of arson, you need competent legal counsel. Every day matters when you are facing arson charges in California. Contact us today to get the criminal defense advice you need.