Arson is a felony, meaning it carries a sentence of more than one year in state prison (not county jail).
If the arson caused great bodily harm, the sentence is three, five, or eight years in prison.
If the structure that was burned was inhabited at the time of the fire but there was no great bodily injury caused, the sentence will be three, five, or eight years. For a piece of property or a structure to be "inhabited," it must simply be used for dwelling purposes—it does not have to be occupied at the time of the fire.
If the structure was uninhabited or if the fire only destroyed property, the punishment is imprisonment in the state prison for two, four, or six years.
Finally, if the arson convicted of arson is currently confined in a state prison, prison road camp, prison forestry camp, or other prison camp or prison farm, or while confined in a county jail while serving a term of imprisonment for a felony or misdemeanor conviction, the sentence imposed will be served consecutive to the sentence for which the person was then confined. Cal. Pen. Code s. 451
Enhancements to Arson Sentences
- the person convicted of arson has a prior conviction for arson;
- emergency personnel suffered great bodily injury from the arson;
- more than one person suffered great bodily harm;
- more than one structure was burned; or
- the arsonist used an accelerant (gasoline, kerosene, alcohol, etc.) or a device to delay the ignition of the fire,
an additional three, four, or five years will be imposed. Cal. Pen. Code s. 451.1
Aggravated Arson ( Cal. Pen. Code s. 451.5 )
If the arson was committed with premeditation and with intent to injure one or more persons or to damage property in a way that was likely to injure people or damage multiple structures, the arson is "aggravated" if at least one of these factors is present:
- the arsonist has a prior conviction for arson within the past 10 years; or
- the fire caused property damage and other losses in excess of $6,500,000.
If the aggravated arson included item one above, the sentence will be imprisonment in the state prison for 10 years to life. If the aggravated arson included item two above, the arsonist shall not be eligible for release on parole for at least ten years.