Criminal Defense: California Man Pleads Guilty to Arson

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California Man Pleads Guilty to Arson

A Cathedral City man pleaded guilty to arson charges today in Indio, at the Larsen Justice Center.  Jesus Abel Hernandez was arrested in December 6, 2011 after he confessed to police that he set a fire at a strip mall in Cathedral City which burnt 8 businesses.  The fire occurred at Date Palm Plaza in Cathedral City.  Mr. Hernandez told police that he set the fire in an insurance scheme.  He was an employee, not an owner, at one of the businesses where the fire occurred.  The business where Mr. Hernandez worked  was owned by a family member, though after an investigation, it was determined that the family member had no part to play in the arson or in the insurance fraud scheme.  According to Mr. Hernandez, his family member was experiencing financial troubles at the meat market, which he owned.  Mr. Hernandez came up with the plan, and enacted said plan, on his own, without the knowledge, aid or assistance of the family member.  As of today, one of the lost businesses has reopened.  Several others are set to reopen in the near future.


In exchange for his plea today, Mr. Hernandez was sentenced to 6 years in state prison and ordered to pay 1.5 million in restitution damages to the owner of the property.  A felony burglary charge was dismissed as part of the plea deal.


Arson in California

Arson, in California is codified under Penal Code 451.  It is the malicious and willful burning of any structure, land and forest property.  It is punishable by 2, 4 or 6 years in state prison.  Mr. Hernandez received 6 years, which the high terms, due to a number of factors, including number of businesses burned, property damaged, people effected, and the intent to commit insurance fraud.  Because it was intentional and for unseemly purposes, the District Attorney was not willing to be more lenient.


Other types of Arson in California

There are other types of arson which can be alleged.  The burning of an inhabited structure or property is punishable by 3, 5, or 8 years in state prison.  Burning which results in great bodily injury to an individual is punishable by 5, 7, or 9 years.  If the person commits the arson while in jail, prison or any prison camp or farm, the abovementioned terms will be consecutive to any terms which he or she is currently serving.


Reckless Arson in California

There is a separate crime of reckless arson in California if the burning was unintentional, but caused by a person’s reckless behavior or actions.  To prove that the fire was caused by reckless behavior, the District Attorney must prove that your actions were such that they constituted a substantial and unjustifiable risk of causing a fire, that you ignored the risk, which a reasonable person would not do.  If you are convicted of a misdemeanor reckless burning, you could be sentenced with up to 1 year in county jail, informal probation and fines.   unjustifiable risk of causing a fire, that ehavior, the Distrburning was unintentional, but caused by a person’it was intent


Contact the Law Office of Stephanie M. Arrache, a criminal defense firm, if you have any questions about arson or have been charged with arson.

Law Office of Stephanie M. Arrache

A Criminal Defense Firm

PO Box 3297

Palm Springs, CA 92262

Office: (760) 237-8295

Cell: (760) 668-8295

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