Each year, arson crimes cause death and injury as well as billions in damage to private and public property. Whole neighborhoods have been destroyed by wildfires that were deliberately set. As a result, arson is a very serious crime in California. Depending on the extent of damage caused by their act of arson, a person charged with arson in California could be facing up to life in prison if convicted.


Arson in California

California state law says that a person is guilty of arson when they willfully and maliciously set fire to any structure, forest land, or property.

Penalties for Arson in California

Arson is a felony crime in California. Depending on the severity of the property damage and personal injury resulting from the crime, a conviction for arson in California could get you:

  • Up to nine years in state prison if the act of arson caused great bodily injury
  • Up to eight years in state prison if you set fire to an inhabited structure or inhabited property
  • Up to six years in state prison if the act of arson burned a structure or forest land.
  • Up to three years in state prison for arson or property. This can apply in situations where a person sets their personal property on fire with the intent to commit fraud. It also applies in situations where the fire was started by accident but spread and caused personal injury or damage to another person’s property and/or forest land.

In addition to jail time, you could also be ordered to register as an arson offender

The charges could be enhanced if:

  • You’ve been previously convicted of arson
  • The act of arson caused great bodily harm to a firefighter, peace officer, or other emergency personnel
  • The act of arson caused great bodily harm to more than one victim
  • The act of arson caused multiple structures to burn
  • The arson was caused by the use of a device designed to accelerate the fire or delay ignition.

You could also be charged with aggravated arson if the following conditions apply:

  • You’ve been previously convicted of arson on one or more occasions within the past 10 years.
  • The fire resulted in property damage and other losses above eight million three hundred thousand dollars ($8,300,000).
  • The fire damaged or destroyed five or more inhabited structures.

If you’re charged with aggravated arson you could be facing 10 years to life in state prison.

Legal Defenses Against Arson Charges in Orange County CA

As you can see, the penalties for being convicted of arson are severe. If you’ve been charged with arson in Orange County, CA, it’s important to take steps to protect your rights.

Contact the law office of Orange County, CA arson lawyer Jim Tanizaki without delay. Jim Tanizaki is a former Orange County DA turned criminal defense attorney. He knows the strategies the state will use to obtain their conviction. You may not know it, but there are many defense tactics that could be used to get the charges against you reduced or even dropped, including:

  • The fire was started accidentally
  • The fire was started by natural causes
  • There was no malicious intent in starting the fire
  • No property was damaged or destroyed
  • No one was injured or killed
  • You owned the property that was damaged or destroyed
  • Mental illness

Use our website, or call us at (714) 655-7633 to schedule a free, confidential initial consultation with Orange County, CA arson defense attorney Jim Tanizaki.