San Jose Arsonist May Face Stiffer Penalties due to Sexual Battery History (CA Penal Code 243.4, 451 and 452)

48-year-old (name withheld to protect the anonymity of the accused) has been a registered sex offender since around 2001 when he was convicted of sexual assault and sexual battery charges (CA Penal Code 243.4).  However, Sgt. Jason Kidwell with the San Jose police department was determined to prove that the San Jose man, who had a history of arson as well, was the culprit in over 12 different blazes set since the beginning of this month.  What investigative techniques did Sgt. Kidwell use?  He simply looked up formerly charged arsonists in the state arson registry and discovered that the man lived in the immediate area.  Local law enforcement officials haven’t been clear as to what evidence they have against him, although they did watch his home for 3-4 days with no results and then raided his home.

Although residents of the area are thankful that a suspect has been arrested in the case, it remains to be seen whether there is enough evidence to convict him on the 2 arson charges against him.  In the state of California, arson is covered under (CA Penal Code 451 & 452).  In general, charges of arson, and/or reckless burning, are a wobbler.  This means that prosecutors may decide to treat it as either a misdemeanor or a felony charge.  Criteria for this decision usually included a person’s individual criminal history, this will mean a re-hashing of each of the arson and sexual assault charges that have every been levied against him.  On the other hand, any type of ‘malicious’ arson is always considered a felony.  Penalties if convicted of a felony arson include anywhere from 16 months to 9 years in state prison, a maximum $10,00 fine, and a ‘strike’ on your record according to California’s Three Strikes Law.