Under California Penal Code 451 and 452 PC, arson is defined by unlawfully setting something on fire, including forest, property or to a building. It is the malicious intent to set aflame which may include setting fire to one’s own personal belongings to gain possible insurance moneys in return. Some examples of arson may include setting fire to a vehicle that someone else owns as an act of revenge as well as causing a forest fire by not extinguishing a cigarette properly.


In the state of California, there are several convictions that can be charged regarding arson. The charges are dependent on whether the fire was set with intent or just recklessly, what type of property was set fire and if the result was someone who became injured from the fire. Under Penal Code 452 PC, it states a “reckless burning” is classified as a misdemeanor. This may fall under the “wobbler law” being that it could potentially be changed to a felony charge. If there is a death as a result of the arson, it falls under the “felony-murder rule”, which states that it is deemed a murder, even if the killing of said person was an accident. Malicious and intentional arson is a mandated felony charge according to Penal Code 451 PC.

Legal Defense to Arson

There are multiple legal defenses when it comes to arson in the state of California. There may be a claim that the arson was sheer accident with no malicious intent. If the evidence and findings against the defendant are deemed insufficient, the charges can be disputed and then dropped. There is a possibility to use mistaken identification of the person responsible for the arson as a legal defense. If the accusations of the arson are deemed false or if the fire itself was not the result of the arson, the case may be dropped.

The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong come equipped with the best lawyers in order to represent and defend the accused on all arson crime convictions. The talent of the lawyers is apparent due to the sensitive nature of these cases and the special attention each defendant receives throughout this tedious process.

Get Help With Your Arson Charge

If you have been charged with arson, we can help. Contact our office today for a free consultation where we will discuss your case and strategy.