Newport Beach Arson Lawyers
Skilled Defense in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino & Los Angeles
Individuals facing criminal arson charges encounter an uphill battle. Over the last decade, California has suffered several fires that have resulted in the loss of life and millions of dollars in property damage. California courts will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law, as politicians and law enforcement officials may try to make an example of you and your alleged crimes.
Hiring an arson defense lawyer in Orange County can be stressful, but failing to hire one can lead to a devastating experience. Whether this is your first run-in with the police, or you have been charged before, a conviction for fire-related offenses can negatively affect many aspects of your life. In California, all forms of arson can become a “strike” on your record and, if convicted, can be used against you in court proceedings to enhance future sentences.
If you’ve been accused, contact the Law Offices of Randy Collins at (844) 285-9559 for a free case evaluation. Getting the right information at the beginning of your criminal proceedings can make a substantial difference.
How Does California Define Arson?
Under California Penal Code 451, it’s an offense for someone to deliberately or recklessly set fire to property other than their own.
In California, malicious offenses under California Penal Code 451 are regarded as felonies.
The penalties for this crime depend on:
- The property class
- Whether someone was injured
- The severity of injuries
Intentional offenses are penalized by:
- Prison time between 16 months and 9 years
- Fine of up to $50,000
- Evaluation by a psychiatrist
- Registration as a local offender
California’s Reckless Burning Law
Reckless arson is treated differently under California Penal Code 452. This involves setting 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 differently from how a reasonable person would think or react in that same situation.
For 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.
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:
- Up to 1 year in jail
- Up to $1,000 in fines
- Informal probation
- Between 16 months and 9 years in prison
- Up to $50,000 in fines
- Registration as a local offender
Aggravated Arson Offenses
In addition to felony penalties outlined above, aggravated charges can result in a consecutive 1- to 5- year prison sentence if there are aggravated circumstances.
Aggravating factors can include:
- A prior conviction for a malicious or reckless offense
- A peace officer injured or died due to the fire
- Multiple buildings were burnt
- Multiple similar offenses within ten years
- More than five inhabited buildings were destroyed
Registration as an Arson Offender
Under California law, the following individuals have to register as an offender:
- Those found guilty and have received at least 10 years in prison
- Those found in possession of or who had been manufacturing certain related weapons and materials
- Those who attempted to start 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’s conduct, they can also face first-degree murder charges. Conviction penalties include:
- Up to 25 years in prison,
- Life imprisonment, or
- Death penalty
If someone owns a property and intentionally sets fire to it to collect funds, prosecutors will charge offenders with insurance fraud as well.
Possible Defense Strategies
Defense strategies for arson charges differ greatly depending upon the circumstance of each case. There are some situations where the arson was accidental, in which case there may be a possibility for a dismissal. There are also instances where the defendant is not guilty of arson, but the facts seem to imply otherwise. An experienced Newport Beach lawyer can examine the details and help secure lower fines and sentencing.
Some of the top legal defenses in an arson case 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 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
Hire a Defense Attorney Today
Don’t let your charges spiral out of control. Take advantage of a free case evaluation from one of our skilled defense attorneys and find out what your options are. Our experienced lawyers will help you understand your charges and get an idea of what you can expect moving forward. We have assisted more than 10,000 clients over the past several decades and will use our skills and experience to work toward a favorable outcome on your behalf.
Over 45 years of Collective Experience
Thousands of Cases Successfully Handled
Former Deputy District Attorney
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Our hard work and dedication have created a reputation that precedes us, and you will need every advantage available when your freedom is on the line.
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