Hiring an arson defense lawyer in Orange County can be stressful, but failing to hire one can be a devastating experience. Whether this is your first run-in with the police, or you have been in and out of jail, a conviction for fire-related offenses can negatively affect many aspects of a person’s future. Those facing charges are encouraged to contact an attorney for a free case evaluation. Getting the right information at the beginning of your criminal proceedings can make a substantial difference.
Definition From Skilled Arson Defense Attorneys
When someone deliberately or recklessly sets a fire to a property other than their own, this is considered to be an offense under California Penal Code 451.
Malicious offenses under California Penal Code 451 is regarded as a felony in California. The penalties for this crime are dependent on:
- The property class
- If someone were injured
- The severity of injuries
Intentional offenses are penalized by:
- Prison Time: between 16 months and 9 yrs
- Fines: up to $50,000
- Evaluation by a psychiatrist
- Registration as a local offender
Reckless offenses are treated differently under California Penal Code 452. This involves setting a fire to a property or place through reckless acts. This isn’t to be confused with negligence. The prosecution aims to prove that a reckless offender reacted to a fire in a different manner from how a logical person would think or react in that same situation.
As an example, someone at a gas station lights a cigar, knowing full well the impact it might have on the entire property and people surrounding the area.
In order to determine the penalties under California Penal Code 452, the judge will order the offender to undergo an evaluation with a certified psychologist. Penalties for reckless burning can be either:
- Misdemeanor: up to 1 year in jail | up to $1,000 in fines| an informal probation
- Felony: Prison: between 16 months and 9 yrs | Fine: up to $50,000 | Registration as a local offender
Aggravated Arson Offenses
In addition to felony penalties outlined above, aggravated charges can result in a consecutive 1-5 year sentence in prison if there are aggravated circumstances of the case. These aggravating factors include:
- If the defendant has a prior conviction for a malicious or reckless offense
- If a peace officer were injured or died due to the fire
- Multiple buildings were burnt
- The offender increased the burning power of the fire instead of trying to out the flame
- There were multiple similar offenses within ten years
- More than five habited buildings were destroyed
Registration as an Arson Offender
The following individuals have to register as an offender under California law:
- Those who have been found guilty and have received at least ten years in prison
- Those who have been found in possession of, or had been manufacturing certain related weapons and materials
- Those who have attempted to commit fires
Let’s examine related offenses and how sentencing can be enhanced for them:
PC 187 First-Degree Murder Resulting from Fire
If someone dies as a result of the defendant, he or she can also face first degree murder charges that is carries penalties of either:
- Up to 25 years in prison
- Life imprisonment
- Death penalty
If someone owns a property and intentionally sets fire to their home to collect funds, prosecutors will charge offenders with insurance fraud as well.
An experienced Orange County lawyer can help secure lower fines and sentencing. Some of the top legal defenses include:
- The fire was accidental – fines are higher for malicious offenses, as seen above.
- Not enough evidence – if the prosecution doesn’t build a strong case of evidence, and the facts are purely circumstantial, this is seen as inadequate evidence.
- Mistaken identity – someone else started it.
A California defense attorney will conduct independent investigative work to examine some of the tell-tale signs of fire offenses, and the loopholes in the accusation. Common signs include:
- Broken glass windows or doors
- Copper wiring or steel that was melted
- Gas containers and more
Resources for Orange County Offenders
Hire a Defense Attorney Today
Don’t let your charges spiral out of control. Take advantage of a free professional case evaluation from one of our skilled defense attorneys and find out what your options are. An experienced lawyer will be able to help you better understand your charges and get an idea of what you can expect moving forward. Call (888) 250-2865 today to reach an arson defense lawyer in Orange County for assistance.