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Arson can be a destructive and potentially deadly crime. Accordingly, a conviction can have severe consequences, including lengthy prison sentences and high monetary fines. If you are facing an arson charge, retaining a San Leandro arson lawyer may be essential.

Depending on the circumstances of the case, you could face either misdemeanor or felony arson charges. An experienced criminal defense attorney could work to explain the extent of the charges against you and the possible penalties that could accompany an arson conviction.

Defining Arson

California Penal Code §451 defines arson as the willful or malicious act of setting fire to or burning structures, forest land, or property. Individuals may also face arson charges if they assist, persuade, or hire others to commit arson. Importantly, arson does not apply to individuals who are burning their personal property, unless they intend to commit fraud or the arson causes injury to another person or their property.

Arson of property is generally a felony offense that can result in a prison term of 16, 24, or 36 months. Arson that affects a structure or forest land, however, can result in a prison sentence of two, four, or six years.

Arson resulting in significant bodily injury is punishable by a prison term of five, seven, or nine years. Similarly, if arson affects an inhabited structured or property, a conviction on the offense can result in a sentence of three, five, or eight years. Malicious arson is a strike offense while reckless arson under California Penal Code §452 is not. Reckless arson is a wobbler offense that can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor.

Aggravated Arson

Under Ca. Pen. Code §451.5, aggravated arson may occur when individuals deliberately commit arson with premeditation and with the intent to cause injury, or when an act of arson is likely to result in injury or cause damage to one or more structures or inhabited residences. Other examples of possible aggravating factors in an arson case include:

  • One or more previous arson convictions within the past ten years
  • Property damage or losses, including the costs of fire suppression, of more than $8,300,000
  • Damage or destruction of five or more inhabited structures

Those convicted of aggravated arson can face a prison sentence ranging from ten years to life and may not become eligible for parole until ten calendar years have elapsed. Given the heightened consequences of an aggravated arson conviction, those accused of aggravated arson may wish to consult a San Leandro arson attorney as quickly as possible following an arrest.

Enhancements to San Leandro Arson Sentences

Individuals facing sentences for an arson conviction may also be subject to enhancements based on various factors. According to Ca. Pen. Code §451.1, some of these factors include the following:

  • Arson that proximately causes significant bodily injury to a firefighter, peace officer, or other emergency personnel
  • Arson that proximately causes great bodily harm to more than one victim or damages to multiple structures
  • Use of a device to delay ignition or accelerate the fire

Depending on the circumstances, one or more of these enhancements can add three, four, or five years to an arson sentence. An arson lawyer in San Leandro may be able to clarify the effects of an enhancement on a particular arson case.

Work with a San Leandro Arson Attorney

The repercussions of an arson conviction can include years of imprisonment and massive fines. If you become the target of an arson investigation, you may wish to consult a San Leandro arson lawyer right away.

There are viable defenses to raise against accusations of arson, but legal defense can be difficult if you fail to retain the necessary legal help. Contacting experienced legal counsel soon may place you in a better position to fight your arson charges.

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