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Criminal Defense Blog Post

What’s the Difference Between Arson and Aggravated Arson?

Javier Adolfo Viera, 35, was arrested in April for his part in 25 fires that were intentionally started in Pasadena and South Pasadena since November 2012. The South Pasadena Police Department announced that Viera confessed to starting most of the 25 fires he is alleged to have committed in the past five months. He has been charged with 18 felony counts, including 10 counts of arson of a forest or structure, six counts of arson of another person’s property, and two counts of attempted arson.

Under the California Penal Code, you have committed arson if you willfully and maliciously set fire to or burn any structure, forest land or property. The penalty for arson depends on the circumstances of the felony, with a maximum sentence of nine years imprisonment in the case of regular arson that causes great bodily injury. However, the maximum sentence can be enhanced by up to five years in certain scenarios, such as if a firefighter suffered great bodily injury or if a device was used to accelerate the fire.

By contrast, you may be charged with aggravated arson if you carry out arson with pre-meditation, with intent to cause injury or damage, and one of the following factors is present:

  • You have been convicted of arson within the past 10 years
  • The fire caused damage in excess of $6.5 million
  • The fire caused damage to five or more inhabited structures

The penalties for aggravated arson are severe, with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

If you have been charged with arson, consult with an experienced San Jose criminal defense lawyer.

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Creech Liebow & Kraus
333 West San Carlos Street, Suite 1600
San Jose, California, 95110-2726 USA