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What does it mean to be charged with arson in California?

The first thing it's important to say is that a charge of arson is a serious thing, when it comes to California law. If you are facing an arson charge, you need to talk to an Orange County Criminal Attorney, who can help with your case. You need to make sure that you are well represented, as you could be facing a felony charge, depending on what type of arson you are accused of.

In this article, we are going to explain the different types of arson you can be charged with. We are also going to take a look at what sort of defenses are commonly used against these charges.

Wilful and malicious arson

This is the type of arson which most commonly comes to mind when people think of the crime. Wilful and malicious arson is dealt with under California penal code 451. As you may expect, this type of arson involves a deliberate act. If you are accused of wilful and malicious arson it's alleged that you deliberately set fire to something; this could be possessions, buildings or land, for example. This type of arson is always regarded as a felony under Californian law.

Reckless arson

If you act in a careless manner, and cause a fire as a result, you can be charged with reckless arson. If you set fire to property, the crime is normally regarded as a misdemeanour. This changes if you set fire to a building or land that is part of the forest. In these cases, reckless arson is regarded as a wobbler offense which means it's possible for it to be tried as a misdemeanour or a felony. This also happens if serious injury occurs, as a result of the fire.

What sort of defense is used?

Being charged with arson is a serious matter. It's even possible to be charged with murder, if someone dies as the result of an arson attack; this is in accordance with the California felony murder rule. It's interesting to note the defenses that people claim, in order to try and avoid conviction. These defenses include:

  • The fire was caused accidentally.
  • There is not sufficient evidence that the fire was caused by the accused.
  • The fire did not occur as the result of arson.

This list is not exhaustive. There may be other defenses that an accused wishes to put forward.

As you can see, there is more than one arson charge that can be levelled against you, in the state of California. Committing any type of arson is serious, and the penalties are tough. If you are being charged with arson, whether you caused the fire or not, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible. It's important that you realize how to progress correctly. Having this information can help give you the best chance of having the most effective defense possible.

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