Los Angeles Arson Attorney
There are many different crimes that a person can commit, and they are each categorized differently. While some of these offenses are harmless technicalities, others are serious and endanger other people. In both situations, the state and federal governments have the right to enact punishment against any person who violates serious criminal laws.
Arson is a key criminal offense. Though there are certain situations in which controlled fires are appropriate, fire can easily become dangerous and turn into an act of criminal arson even if that was not the original intention. Many people are charged with arson because a situation involving fire grew out of their control.
If you are being charged with Los Angeles criminal arson, it’s important that you find a criminal defense attorney who can help you. Without proper legal representation, you could face severe punishments for what happened and even spend a significant amount of time in prison.
The Law Office of Stein & Markus: Your Los Angeles Arson Attorneys
When it comes to Los Angeles criminal defense, no other firm in the area has more experience than our team at Stein & Markus. With over five decades of combined experience, our team has the resources and experience to win your case. We have been around for so long because we are relentless when it matters most, and we are unflinching in our pursuit of justice. We do everything in our power to ensure that you are not unduly punished for something that was not your fault, not your intent, or not your responsibility.
No other legal team in the Los Angeles area can provide you with the level of protection that we can. We are here to make sure that the justice system does not take advantage of you and your family.
What Is Arson?
Arson occurs when an individual intentionally sets fire to another person’s property. When many people think of this, they think of a home or another building first. However, many acts of arson do not involve the burning of a structure. Burning property such as cars, possessions, boats, machinery, etc. also constitutes arson.
In some situations, no objects have to be burned for arson to occur. Burning protected forest land or personal acreage can also be considered arson by the authorities. Reckless burning can also lead to widespread damage, and you can be charged with arson as a result. There are many situations in which arson can occur, especially in California, where the climate is dry and primed for fire.
Why Do I Need an Arson Attorney?
It is important to understand that you are facing serious consequences if you are charged with malicious arson. Arson convictions come with prison sentences, the most lenient of which is usually three years. This means that you face spending a significant portion of your life in prison if you are convicted. What’s more, you are likely to receive significant fines for your actions that are far more expensive than hiring an attorney.
It’s important to note that arson cases are difficult to dispute. While it can be done, an untrained individual is rarely able to create a compelling argument in their favor. With these complex cases, it’s best to hire an attorney who can fight on your behalf and create a reliable argument in court. Without this, you stand very little chance of escaping conviction and the resulting consequences.
Direct and Indirect Arson
You do not have to directly light fire to a piece of property to be guilty of arson. Similar to the way someone aids and abets a murder, you can be responsible for arson without having direct contact with the point of damage.
This concept can be better explained by the terms “direct arson” and “indirect arson.” Direct arson occurs when a person knowingly and intentionally sets fire to something. For example, if you light a fire to your ex-wife’s home using a match, this is direct arson.
Indirect arson is a little more subtle. It involves any situation in which a person caused arson with related actions. For example, if you drop a match in an abandoned field and cause a wildfire that damages homes, you have committed indirect arson.
The law makes no exemptions or allowances for direct or indirect arson. Both are equally punishable and can create significant penalties for you.
Common Sense and Arson
Many people misinterpret the law when it comes to arson. Most laws in California state that the act of burning must be intentional for it to constitute arson. However, this also includes situations in which the offender should have known that their actions would result in a fire. The law expects a certain level of common sense and awareness when it considers intent.
For example, if you light a bonfire in a controlled area and put it out the best you can when you are finished, you’ve used common sense to keep a fire from occurring. However, if you start a bonfire in a dry area without proper safety equipment, permits, or tools, you are not using common sense. In this situation, you should have reasonably known that your actions would cause a fire. Therefore, you can still be charged with arson if your fire causes damage.
Potential Penalties for Criminal Arson Fire Offenses
Before you begin building your case with an attorney, it is important to understand the potential penalties and consequences that you are facing. Understanding this information can help you to make informed decisions throughout your case and gives you a better understanding of what is on the line.
This is the least severe offense within the arson category. This is because attempted arson means that you did not successfully set fire to any property, only that you tried to. However, despite this, if you are convicted of attempted arson, you face up to three years in prison and fines that total up to $50,000. Fortunately, however, this likely won’t result in a felony charge.
Arson of Property
If you do succeed in starting a fire that damages a person’s property but not a structure like a home or shed, you can be criminally charged with arson of property. If convicted, you face up to three years in prison and fines that total up to $50,000. This is considered a felony.
Arson That Damages Structure or Forest Land
If you burn a structure such as a shed, garage, outhouse, etc., or set fire to a forest, you face up to six years in prison and fines that total up to $50,000. This is considered a felony offense.
Arson That Damages Inhabited Structures
If you set fire to someone’s home, cabin, or any other structure in which people live, you are liable to up to eight years in prison on felony charges. You may also face fines that total up to $50,000.
Arson That Causes Significant Bodily Harm
No matter what type of arson you commit, if your offense causes a significant amount of bodily harm to a person or group of people, you can be charged with up to 9 years in prison. No matter the surrounding circumstances, if you hurt someone with your arson activities, you can be charged with a felony, even if the situation would not otherwise warrant a felony charge.
Some arson offenses are considered aggravated. In these situations, there are extenuating circumstances that increase the severity and punishment of the crime. Arson is considered aggravated if:
- The offender has been convicted of arson within the last ten years
- The fire caused $6,500,000 or more in damages
If one or both of these is true in your case, you face a lifetime in prison on felony arson charges.
Though your exact sentence will vary depending on your unique circumstances, it’s important to understand that these offenses are considered serious. The law does not take arson lightly, and you face life-changing consequences if you are convicted. Even attempting to commit arson results in a significant amount of time in prison and prohibitive fines.
Explosions and Arson
Many people assume that arson charges apply only to situations in which they light a fire. However, this is not the case. Explosions can also cause fires, and the result is the same whether you lit a match or detonated an explosive. This category includes items such as fireworks, which can cause significant damage if you use them incorrectly or without a proper license.
If you cause a fire with an explosion or explosive device, you can still be charged with arson. The court does not limit the scope of this crime to open flames and matches.
Arson and Personal Property
In some situations, individuals set fire to their own homes or property. In these cases, they cannot be charged with arson if they truly only damaged their own assets. For example, if you decide to set fire to your car to see what happens and the fire is contained to the car, you cannot be charged with arson because the car is your personal property. You are legally allowed to do what you want with your own property.
However, this does not apply in some situations. If you burn your personal property and the fire spreads to another person’s property, you can still be charged with arson. For example, if you light your car on fire and it spreads to your neighbor’s lawn and garage, you can be charged with arson for burning your neighbor’s property.
You can also be charged with arson if you burn your own property with the intent of committing fraud. For example, if you burn down your home so that you can collect insurance money, you can be convicted of arson and be punished.
It’s important to note that though setting fire to your own property is not considered arson if it is contained, you may face other punishments for doing so. Environmental protection guidelines may prohibit you from burning your car, for example. Though you cannot be found guilty of arson, there are other punishments and convictions that you may face instead.
Potential Defenses to Arson Charges
It can be difficult to fathom an argument that can refute evidence of your crime. However, there are many different defenses that your attorney may decide to use in your case. They include:
- You are underage. Individuals under the age of 14 can generally not be charged with criminal arson.
- You did not intend to set the fire or misunderstood the limitations of the law. In these situations, your attorney must show that you acted innocently in accordance with the information that you had and understood.
- Mental incapacity. Some individuals are not mentally capable of understanding their actions and the consequences. This defense can be used in a limited number of cases.
- You were under duress. Someone else threatened or forced you to commit the crime.
- You were justified in your actions, or they were otherwise necessary. For example, if you are lost in the woods and build a fire to keep from freezing to death, you may not be held liable for arson if you start a forest fire.
Not all of these defenses will apply to your case. However, your attorney will help you to understand what scenario is most likely to hold up in court.
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