A Los Angeles man could face criminal charges for arson after his recent arrest. Matthew Rice is believed to have attempted to set three Los Angeles area houses on fire earlier this month. According to reports, Rice knew the owners of each of the homes he tried to torch. His first arson attempt was his estranged wife’s home in Studio City. After being discovered, Rice fled to Fontana where he attempted to set his wife’s friend’s home on fire. Shortly after this, Rice attempted to set his wife’s parents’ home on fire in Rancho Cucamonga.
Intentionally attempting to set homes on fire is a serious crime in Los Angeles that carries significant penalties. Rice could face at least three counts of attempted arson for his Los Angeles arson spree. He will likely consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to limit the criminal penalties he faces for his actions.
What is Arson?
In California, arson is the act of intentionally setting a fire or burning something for an unlawful purpose. The crime, which is defined in California Penal Code Section 451 PC, occurs when you willfully and maliciously set fire to or burn any structure, forest land, or property.
State of mind is important
Arson requires that you act maliciously and willfully when setting a fire or causing something to burn. You will be considered to have acted willfully when you do something intentionally and on purpose. Things you do by accident or under threat of force are not considered willful. You will be considered to have acted maliciously when you do something with an illegal or negative intent. For example, setting a fire with the intent to injure, annoy, or defraud someone/something would be considered malicious.
However, you can face reckless arson charges if your behavior creates a significant risk of harm. Throwing a hot cigarette butt into a dry trash can or lighting matches around flammable materials could trigger charges for reckless arson if a fire erupts.
Who owns the property?
Most time, arson is only a crime if you set another person’s structure, land, or property on fire. However, you can also face charges for arson for setting fire to or burning your own stuff. You can face charges for arson for setting your own structure, land, or property on fire when it is proven that you did so for fraudulent reasons or caused an injury.
Criminal Punishments for Arson
Allegations of arson are not taken lightly in Los Angeles. If it is proven that you attempted to commit arson or successfully committed arson you can face serious criminal penalties.
Arson is a felony offense in Los Angeles. If you are convicted of arson, your criminal sentence will depend on the facts of your specific case, including:
- Whether the arson caused great bodily harm, death, or significant property damage;
- Prior charges or convictions for arson or related offenses; and
- Any other mitigating or aggravating factors.
Possible criminal penalties for a felony arson conviction include 3 years in prison, $10,000 in fines, and a term of felony probation. If your crime of arson causes great bodily injury or significant property damage, you can face up to 9 years in prison. For crimes of arson that cause death, you can be sentenced to life in a California state prison.
Attempted Arson Penalties
If you attempt to willfully and maliciously commit arson and fail you can still face significant criminal penalties for your actions. Attempted arson is a felony offense punishable by 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in a California state prison; $10,000 in fines; and a term of felony probation.
Experienced Los Angeles Arson Attorney
Rice is facing three felony counts of attempted arson for trying to set three houses on fire. If convicted, he could face up to 3 years in prison for each individual charge. This means that he could potentially be required to spend 9 years in prison for his unsuccessful attempts to set a few houses on fire. His chances of securing the best possible outcome in his case will increase if he hires an experienced criminal defense attorney to defend him. An attorney will understand the California arson laws that apply to his case and know which defenses may be helpful in securing a reduction or dismissal of the charges.