Penal Code § 451 states that a person is “guilty of arson when he or she willfully and maliciously sets fire to or burns or causes to be burned or who aids, counsel or procures the burning of any structure, forest land or property.”
A conviction for a violation of § 451 is a felony, carrying with it a minimum prison sentence of sixteen months and a maximum sentence of three years in state prison. Such sentences do not include any sentence enhancements that add to the length of the sentence, which are common.
If one is convicted of violating § 451, one may also have to register as a convicted arsonist under Penal Code § 457.1. This applies while the person lives in California and requires the person to notify law enforcement of one’s residence at all times. The registration requirement applies when one is convicted of 451 with aggravating factors resulting in a minimum ten-year prison term, or when there is the use of combustible or flammable material in connection with the fire, or there is even attempted arson. The registration requirement is not usually a lifetime requirement, in contrast to the sexual offender’s registration requirement under Penal Code § 290 that is a lifetime requirement.
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