Law enforcement officials in Novato have made an arrest in an incident involving the purposeful burning of 4 vehicles on the Novato Chevrolet lot on Redwood Drive. They were alerted to the crime as a grass fire, but after emergency vehicles responded, it was determined that the fire must have been purposeful, causing approximately $100,000 in damage to the various vehicles parked there. The investigation continued as police released video surveillance footage of the arsonist that was collected from a business close by. A 46-year-old man was arrested for the crime.
CA Penal Code 451 and 452 of the California Penal Code address the crime of arson. Together, these two portions of the law make it illegal to cause a piece of property, building, or wooded area to be purposefully set on fire. There are 2 ways, however, in which arson may be viewed, legally speaking. First, if an individual has purposefully and maliciously set fire to any of the above, he or she may be charged with simple ‘arson.’ However, if the fire was not set on purpose, but was, in fact, accidental, then it may fall under the category of ‘reckless arson.’ Clearly, if the man in the case above is convicted, he will be convicted of arson and not reckless burning.
California arson penalties may range widely. There are several different factors that dictate the severity of any particular arson sentence. For example, the kind of property that has been destroyed, whether or not the fire was set on purpose, and whether or not another person sustained injuries due to the fire are all considered during the sentencing phase. While reckless arson is usually considered a misdemeanor, all willful arson cases are treated as felonies under California law. If convicted, an individual may expect to spend up to 9 years in state prison, depending on whether or not there are aggravating factors.