With the devastating wildfires that have swept across California in recent years, the laws surrounding arson have come under the spotlight. If you're facing arson charges in California, it's important to understand what this means and what your rights are. In this blog post, we'll look at whether you can be charged with arson for accidentally starting a fire in California.
If I Accidentally Start a Fire, Can I Be Charged with Arson in California?
Arson is a very serious crime in California, and it's defined as intentionally setting fire to a property or structure. Under California law, arson can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the severity of the crime. However, accidental fires do happen, and you may be relieved to know that you cannot be charged with arson for an accidental fire.
That said, the law in California does hold people responsible if they act recklessly and their actions result in a fire. If, for example, you start a fire by lighting a campfire in a restricted area or by discarding a cigarette in a dry brush area, you could be charged with reckless burning.
What Is Reckless Burning?
Reckless burning refers to the unlawful act of setting a fire with disregard for the risk involved. In other words, the person knew the possible consequences of their actions but proceeded regardless. The penalties for a reckless burning conviction in California include the following:
- Misdemeanor – If you’re convicted of reckless burning of forest land or a structure and it’s a misdemeanor, you could face up to six months in jail. A misdemeanor conviction for reckless burning of an inhabited property or structure can result in a year in jail. If you’re convicted of reckless burning causing great bodily injury and it’s a misdemeanor, you could face up to a year in jail.
- Felony – A felony conviction for reckless burning of forest land or a structure can result in up to three years in prison. If you’re convicted of reckless burning of an inhabited structure or property and it’s a felony, you could face up to four years in prison. A felony conviction for reckless burning causing great bodily injury can result in up to six years in prison.
Charged with Arson in California? Contact Our Experienced Arson Defense Lawyers for a Free Consultation Today
If you've been charged with arson or reckless burning for starting a fire in California, it's important to understand your rights and to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you navigate the legal system.
Our criminal defense team at Appel & Morse has over 40 years of combined legal experience, which means we know how to build compelling cases to defend our clients. In addition, we know the various statutes in California concerning arson crimes and won’t rest until we’ve explored every option to have the charges against you reduced or dismissed.