At the San Marcos campus of Palomar College, a serial arsonist has struck nine times since December, each time in a men’s bathroom at the school. Here are some of the potential consequences he could face if arrested, which is why the arsonist, along with anyone accused or suspected of a crime should always contact a Vista criminal lawyer.
Arson charges are almost always felonies in California, particularly in cases like this where the defendant has acted repeatedly and in a setting where people were likely to get injured. Because the fires were obviously started intentionally in a public space and multiple fires were started, the crime will likely be charged as “malicious arson,” which carries a sentence of up to nine years in prison, up to $60,000 in fines and a strike on the person’s criminal record that will count towards the three strikes law. Additionally, if the person who commits the crime has a prior criminal record, or if he starts another fire that injures someone or causes multiple structures to burn, the sentence could be increased another one to five years.
Alternatively, the suspect could be charged with aggravated arson, which is premeditated arson with the intent to injure or burn multiple individuals or property, with a prior arson conviction or damage of $6.5 million dollars. This crime is punishable from 10 years to life in prison. At the other end of the spectrum, arson can sometimes be reduced to reckless burning charges which carries less severe penalties and can result in probation or even a misdemeanor conviction.
As you can see, these penalties are incredibly serious, which is why anyone who believes they are under investigation for these crimes needs to speak with a Vista criminal attorney as soon as possible.
In addition to the penalties listed above, the arsonist could even be labeled as a “convicted arson offender,” which means he will be subject to a similar set of restrictions and rules as those labeled as sex offenders. Failure to abide by all of these rules could result in an additional year in jail. A Vista criminal defense attorney can help someone obtain a certificate of rehabilitation, if necessary, so that person will no longer have to register as an arson offender.
The most common defense used by Vista criminal defense lawyers in arson cases is that the fire was started by accident. Because this case involves a serial arsonist, this defense will probably not work, but there are other defenses available to this crime, including insufficient evidence, mistaken identity and more.
If you believe you are under investigation for arson or have already been charged with the crime, Peter M. Liss can help. Please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation.
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