Choose an Aggressive Arson Defense Attorney
Due to the perpetually dry conditions in Southern California over the last few years, and the fact that wild fires have been worse than most any fires in recorded history, it is no surprise that arson crimes are being investigated and prosecuted aggressively. If you have been charged with an arson crime, it is essential that your defense attorney is just as aggressive as they are. You can request a consultation today by calling Simmons Wagner, LLP at (949) 439-5857.
There Are Various Arson Charges in California
There are several types of arson described in the California Penal Code. Which one you might be charged with will vary based on your intent, the type of property that was burned, the damage that was done, and whether or not anyone was hurt. The most common types of arson are:
- Arson refers to willfully or maliciously burning someone else’s property. This could be anything from a small trash can to their entire acreage. Arson of this type is always charged as a felony.
- Reckless burning. Even if you did not intend to cause a large fire, if you engaged in reckless burning and a fire started, you could be charged with reckless burning. For example, if you were putting out a campfire and threw the embers of a fire onto a patch of dry grass.
- Aggravated arson. There are situations that can lead to enhanced penalties. If a person is a repeat offender, if they burned several structures, if there was a significant injury to a first responder who responded to the fire, or if several people suffered significant injury then it is likely that aggravated arson will come with sentencing enhancements.
- Arson homicide. If someone dies as a result of a fire that was set, the person who set the fire could be charged with murder the felony-murder rule. This could lead to a sentence of life without parole – even if you had no intention to kill anyone.
There is no such thing as a minor arson charge – all charges related to arson should be taken seriously and should prompt a call to an arson defense attorney.
The Prosecutor Must Prove Several Elements to Meet Their Burden of Proof
The specifics of what a prosecutor must prove will depend on the specific type of arson you are being charged with. If you are charged with arson for property that is not your own, you will be charged with a felony and could face as long as three years in prison. To get this conviction, the prosecutor must prove:
- That you set fire to or burned a structure, property, or forest land
- That you acted willfully and maliciously
If they cannot prove both elements then they have not proven arson.
In order to convict you of aggravated arson, they must prove three elements:
- That you acted willfully, deliberately, maliciously, and with premeditation
- That you acted with intent to either injure one or more people, or to damage property that you knew would likely injure one or more person, or to damage one or more structures or inhabited properties
- The fire resulted in damage and losses of more than $5.65 million or the fire damaged more than four inhabited structures
All three of these elements must be met for the prosecution to have a valid case.
Defense Options to Charges of Arson
The best way to defend you will depend on the evidence against you and the facts of the case. We will start by looking at the evidence the prosecution has and finding ways to invalidate it or contradict it. Ideally, we will be able to show that the prosecution lacks the necessary evidence to convict and the charges will be dropped or dismissed.
In the event that there is strong evidence against you, all we have to is cast doubt on one of the elements the prosecution is required to prove. This could involve:
- Showing that your actions were not willful but were an accident
- That you did not know a building was inhabited
- That you did not start the fire at all
These are just a few of the options. When you contact Simmons Wagner, LLP at (949) 439-5857 we will go over your case and offer our best advice on how to proceed.
Do You Want to Negotiate a Plea Deal?
If you are guilty and you want to negotiate the best possible plea deal, we strongly recommend you work with an attorney. The truth is that the prosecution has experience on their side. Even for a person who has years of experience with other types of negotiation, the law is different. Having the right legal expertise on your side could mean the difference between being sentenced to community service and probation, versus three years in prison.