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Arson Crime

In California, Arson is considered a serious crime that is punishable both as a misdemeanor and a felony. The term arson is defined as an intentional act of burning or causing malicious fires to any kind of structure or area. Due to the destructive force brought about by fire, arson is one of the most problematic crimes to tackle. Vital clues and evidences pertaining to the causes of the fire are more likely to be destroyed during the fire or during the attempt to put out the flames. There is much to be learned from these offenders, and although the problem may never be eradicated, our community can become aware of the dangers they may cause. These individuals can teach us much about the workings and the anatomy of a troubled past. It is a problem that leads to loss of life, serious injuries and can result in substantial financial and personal suffering and the visual impact on communities is devastating. Living in California with the known dry area and vegetation make this an issue for the state. Not only is this a state crime but it is vital to know the federal statutes as well, which we will note in the following.

California Penal Code 451: [Felony]

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.

(a)Arson that causes great bodily injury is a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for five, seven, or nine years.

(b)Arson that causes an inhabited structure or inhabited property to burn is a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for three, five, or eight years.

(c)Arson of a structure or forest land is a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, four, or six years.

(d)Arson of property is a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months, two, or three years. For purposes of this paragraph, arson of property does not include one burning or causing to be burned his or her own personal property unless there is intent to defraud or there is injury to another person or another person's structure, forest land, or property.

(e)In the case of any person convicted of violating this section while confined in a state prison, prison road camp, prison forestry camp, or other prison camp or prison farm, or while confined in a county jail while serving a term of imprisonment for a felony or misdemeanor conviction, any sentence imposed shall be consecutive to the sentence for which the person was then confined.

California Penal Code 452: [Misdemeanor]

A person is guilty of unlawfully causing a fire when he recklessly sets fire to or burns or causes to be burned, any structure, forest land or property.

(a)Unlawfully causing a fire that causes great bodily injury is a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, four or six years, or by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year, or by a fine, or by both such imprisonment and fine.

(b)Unlawfully causing a fire that causes an inhabited structure or inhabited property to burn is a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three or four years, or by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year, or by a fine, or by both such imprisonment and fine.

(c)Unlawfully causing a fire of a structure or forest land is a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months, two or three years, or by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than six months, or by a fine, or by both such imprisonment and fine.

Federal Arson Statute:

The federal arson statute, 18 U.S.C. Section 844(i), renders any arson or attempted arson a federal crime if it affects interstate or foreign commerce. The arson or attempted arson of any property carries a statutory minimum sentence of 5 years and a maximum of 20 years. If any person is injured in the arson or attempted arson, the statutory minimum is 7 years and maximum is 40 years, and if the fire results in the death of a firefighter or other person the defendant may receive up to life in prison, or even be subject to the death penalty.

(d)Unlawfully causing a fire of property is a misdemeanor. For purposes of this paragraph, unlawfully causing a fire of property does not include one burning or causing to be burned his own personal property unless there is injury to another person or to another person's structure, forest land or property.

(e)In the case of any person convicted of violating this section while confined in a state prison, prison road camp, prison forestry camp, or other prison camp or prison farm, or while confined in a county jail while serving a term of imprisonment for a felony or misdemeanor conviction, any sentence imposed shall be consecutive to the sentence for which the person was then confined.

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