An Overview of CA Penal Code § 451 (Arson)

California Penal Code Section 451 says that a person is guilty of arson "when he or she willfully and maliciously sets fire to or burns or causes to be burned or who aids, counsels, or procures the burning of, any structure forest land, or property." More simply, any person who sets fire to or helps set fire to certain types of property or land may face arson charges.

Arson is a very serious offense in California because it can cause great danger to others. The penalties one would face if charged with arson depend on various factors including:

  • The type of property or land involved,
  • If another person was injured, and
  • If the fire was set intentionally or recklessly.

California Penal Code § 452 is a different arson-related offense that involves "unlawfully causing a fire when he recklessly sets fire to" any structure, forest land or property. "Recklessly" is the key word in this Penal Code.

In order to be convicted of this charge, a prosecutor must prove that an individual's reckless behavior resulted in the burning of a structure, forest land or property. An example of reckless behavior may be a person throwing a cigarette into brush causing a fire to start.

If you or a loved one has been charged with arson, working with an experienced defense attorney should be your top priority. At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, we understand the serious nature of Arson charges and how the various types of arson, intentional or reckless arson, can have stiff penalties. Call immediately to have your case reviewed!