With the proliferation of wildfires in California, punishment for arson has become increasingly harsh in recent years. Arson is loosely defined as the intentional ignition and/or burning of another’s property. Sentencing will depend on how badly damaged the property is and if anyone was hurt or killed in the fire. Under the law, setting fire to one’s own property is not considered arson as long as the fire does not affect another person’s property and is not intentionally ignited for insurance purposes.

If you have been accused of arson in San Bernardino or Riverside County, contact us before speaking with law enforcement. Your defense lawyer is often in the best position to gather favorable evidence overlooked by the police which could lead to a dismissal of charges.


Arson Penalties

Under Penal Code 451, the sentencing range for arson of property that is not a building or other structure is 16 months, two years or three years. If the arson is of an unoccupied building, the range is three years, five years or eight years. If a person is convicted of arson which results in great bodily harm, they face five years, seven years or nine years in state prison.

If a person has been previously convicted of arson within a 10-year period of the new charge, the defendant may be charged with aggravated arson. Aggravated arson could also be charged if the property damage caused exceeds a certain amount or an accelerant was used to ignite the fire. Under Penal Code 451.5, a person convicted of aggravated arson can be sentenced to 10 years to life.

Individuals convicted of malicious arson may also be required to register as an Arson Offender under Penal Code 457.1.

In addition to the foregoing penalties and imprisonment, a conviction may also result in probation, court fines and restitution fine up to $10,000, potential immigration issues as well as restrictions on owning or possessing firearms.


Potential Defenses in Arson Cases

Common defenses to an arson charge include: accidental ignition of the fire; false identification of the arsonist and challenging the circumstantial evidence of guilt. If you have been charged with arson in San Bernardino or Riverside County, contact our offices now to start building a defense to this serious charge.

Our criminal defense attorneys will do everything they can to give their clients the best representation possible. They will go over the evidence the prosecution has and will come up with a defense that gives their clients the opportunity to beat the charges or position them favorably in plea negotiations.

Our Results Speak for Themselves

Client charged with possession for sales and gang enhancement. Client faced 16 years in prison with the gang and prior strike allegation. Client turned down 8 year pretrial offer with prior attorney before going to trial. Not guilty on all charges at trial. (People v. Antwan B.)

Client charged with attempt murder, accessory after the fact and gang enhancement after shots fired at a dwelling. Client turned down 15 year pretrial offer. During trial, plea deal reached for probation with time served. (People v. Rudy B.)

Client charged with resisting arrest, obstruction of justice when cops performed a probation sweep at her residence.  Client found not guilty on all counts at jury trial. (People v. Felicia M.)

Client charged with corporal injury to girlfriend after argument allegedly escalated. Client had significant exposure of 21 years because of prior strike, probation violation and GBI allegation. At trial, jury refused to convict client, returning hung verdict. (People v. Christopher P.)

Client charged with possession of methamphetamine for sale after traffic stop. Client claimed prejudice by prosecution’s delay in bringing the case to court. Motion filed on behalf of client asking the Court to dismiss the case as violative of client’s speedy trial rights. Motion granted and case dismissed. (People v. Shannon J.)