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Penalties and Punishment of Arson Charges: Why Are They So Severe?

Okabe & Haushalter Feb 17, 2018 Arson

A man arrested for a string of arson fires and vandalism targeting churches in California was charged with 22 criminal counts.

Arson alone is a serious charge, but in most cases, a person charged with arson will also be charged with other criminal counts. In the case of Christian Michael Garcia, 25, setting houses of worship on fire resulted in nearly two dozens criminal charges.

Garcia was arrested in late January on suspicion of arson and vandalism targeting churches. Last month, Garcia targeted a series of houses of worship in Los Angeles, Pasadena, and in other parts of Los Angeles County.

Within a week after the arrest, the man was charged with 20 felony charges (including 13 counts of vandalism, three counts of arson, two counts of second-degree commercial burglary, one count of attempted second-degree robbery and one count of arson of property). Additionally, Garcia was charged with two misdemeanor counts of vandalism under $400.

Why are arson penalties and punishment so severe?

Our Los Angeles arson attorney at Okabe & Haushalter explains that penalties and punishment for arson are rather severe in Southern California, as the state has zero tolerance for intentional acts of destruction of structures, let alone when holy sanctuaries and churches are being targeted.

After investigators concluded that one person was responsible for a series of arson fires and vandalism in January, the case became the first priority for authorities to investigate and prosecute the serious crime of arson and prevent further destruction of houses of worship across the state.

You can be charged with arson if…

Under laws in California, penalties and punishment for arson-related crimes vary from one case to another. Generally, the severity of penalties depends on the suspect’s intent and whether the acts of arson caused any harm to individuals, including firefighters, or property.

In order to be charged with arson in Los Angeles and elsewhere in California, a prosecutor must provide evidence that you:

  • Acted intentionally and maliciously
  • Set fire or burned the property in question
  • Property, structure or forest land was damaged as a result of the arson
  • None of the defenses (see below) apply in your case.

You may be charged with aggravated arson if you:

  1. Have been previously convicted of arson in the past 10 years, or
  2. Caused damage that totaled over $6.5 million.

However, even if a prosecutor cannot prove the above-mentioned crimes of arson, you may still be charged with criminal counts, which is why it’s critical to be legally represented by one of the best arson attorneys in Los Angeles to minimize the severity of penalties.

Consequences of arson charges

Penalties and punishment for arson charges vary greatly depending on the charges and the amount of damage caused. Generally, these are the penalties and sentences for arson in California:

  • If the bodily injury was caused – you may face up to 9 years in prison
  • If damage to inhabited structures or properties was caused – up to 8 years in jail
  • If damage to structures or forest land was caused – up to 6 years of the prison sentence
  • Arson of property – up to 3 years in jail
  • Aggravated arson – up to life sentence in prison
  • Attempted arson – up to 3 years in jail
  • Additionally, a person convicted of any arson-related crime may face up to $50,000 in fines, our Los Angeles arson attorney warns.

There are certain defenses to arson that can help you avoid penalties or reduce the severity of punishment, our arson lawyers at Okabe & Haushalter point out. These defenses include:

  • Age (children under 14 cannot be charged with a crime)
  • Mental incapacity (requires medical evaluation proof)
  • Lack of criminal intent
  • Duress
  • Justification/necessity.

Let our best arson lawyers in Los Angeles work on your case and figure out which defenses may apply in your case in order to minimize the severity of arson penalties.

Contact our attorneys today to get a free consultation. Call at 310-430-7799 or fill out this contact form.