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Arson is a serious felony under state law that can result in years in prison. In addition, all types of arson qualify as “strikes” for purposes of the California “three strikes” law, which could affect sentences that defendants receive for other criminal convictions in the future. If you have been accused of arson, an Alameda arson lawyer may be able to assess the charges against you and determine whether any defenses apply to your case.

Arson investigations typically involve advanced chemical analyses by experts to determine the causes of fires and their ignition points. As these investigations may be lengthy and complicated, enlisting the services of an experienced criminal defense lawyer may be wise.

Arson in Alameda

Under Ca. Pen. Code § 451, arson is the intentional or malicious act of setting fire to or burning a structure, forested lane, or any other property. Helping, convincing, or hiring others to commit the offense of arson can also result in arson charges, even if others wholly committed the arson. Due to the potential severity of these charges, individuals facing arson charges may wish to consult an arson lawyer in Alameda for advice.

The definition of arson specifically exempts some activities, such as individuals who burn their personal property for landscaping purposes. Nonetheless, arson charges still apply to defendants who intend to commit fraud by burning their personal property or if the fire that they set injures another person or their property, harms other structures, or destroys forested land.

Aggravated Arson

Ca. Pen. Code § 451.5 elevates arson to aggravated arson when individuals purposely commit arson with intent to harm or cause injury to others. Aggravated arson also occurs when individuals:

  • Use arson to cause property damage that is likely to injure others or cause damage to a structure or inhabited residence
  • Have one or more arson convictions within the prior ten years
  • Use arson to cause property damages or losses of more than $8.3 million
  • Cause damage to five or more inhabited structures

Aggravated arson convictions can result in a prison sentence ranging from ten years to life. State law provides for a mandatory minimum ten-year sentence during which parole is not a possibility for a conviction for aggravated arson. Since aggravated arson potentially can result in a life prison sentence, getting the advice of an arson attorney in Alameda may be crucial to avoiding this harsh result.

Sentencing for Arson in Alameda

Arson typically is a felony offense that carries the potential for prison sentences ranging from 16 months to three years. If the arson results in damage to a structure or forest land, the potential prison sentence increases to a minimum of two years and a maximum of six years. If the structure or property is inhabited, the possible prison sentence again increases to a range of three to eight years.

Other factors also may enhance the length of a prison sentence for an arson conviction under Ca. Pen. Code § 451.1 include:

  • Committing arson while incarcerated
  • Causing significant bodily harm to firefighters, peace officers, and other emergency personnel through arson
  • Committing arson that results in substantial physical harm to more than one individual or damage to multiple structures or buildings
  • Using a device to delay or accelerate the fire

The existence of enhancing factors can result in an additional three, four, or five years added onto the base sentence for the arson offense.

Contact an Alameda Arson Attorney Today

The state of California often experiences wildfires, and the political pressure to identify and punish those who illegally start fires is great. Unfortunately, this may lead to an innocent person being caught up and targeted in an arson investigation. Regardless of your situation, however, you will likely require the help of an Alameda arson lawyer. Reach out to an attorney as soon as possible for help.

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