There is a difference between malicious and reckless arson, so just what is reckless burning?
California Penal Code 452 states that “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.”
To be clear …
- A structure is any building, bridge, tunnel, power plant, or commercial or public tent.
- Forest land is any brush covered land, cut-over land, forest, woods, or grasslands.
- Property refers to any personal property. This could be a home, boat, bike, or even clothing.
So, reckless arson — reckless burning — refers to unlawfully setting a fire recklessly. This means that the defendant was aware that their actions could cause a fire and yet ignored those risks.
According to Penal Code 452, recklessly means that the defendant was aware that his or her actions could cause a considerable and inexcusable risk of starting a fire, that risk was ignored, and acting in this way is far from the way a reasonable person would act in the same situation.
Reckless arson is a wobbler, meaning it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony if the property that is burned is a structure or forest land, or if the fire causes great bodily injury.
The penalties vary depending on what was burned.
- Reckless burning of a structure or forest land – Up to 6 months in a county jail (misdemeanor) or 2 or 3 years in a state prison (felony)
- Reckless burning of an inhabited structure or inhabited property – Up to 1 year in a county jail (misdemeanor) or 2, 3, or 4 years in a state prison (felony)
- Reckless burning causing great bodily injury – Up to 1 year in a county jail (misdemeanor) or 2, 4 or 6 years in a state prison (felony)
If you have been arrested or charged with reckless arson, it is essential to obtain legal counsel for help. It’s important to take your charges seriously. Don’t just hope for the best. Hire an arson attorney in Fresno who understands your situation and the consequences you face.
An experienced local criminal defense lawyer can help you understand the nuances reckless arson charges.
A good arson attorney like Mark Broughton will fight for you and for your right to a fair trial.