A transient man was arrested on Thursday by Santa Monica police on suspicion of arson for allegedly lighting a trash can fire, and he is a suspect in two other recent arson fires in the area. Joseph Brent Burchett, 57, is a homeless man originally from Kentucky. He is accused of setting a trash can fire on Thursday afternoon as well as two other fires set in the area on January 1 and December 22. His bail is set at $50,000, and his next court appearance is on Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
California Arson Charges
Given the record-setting year for wildfires and other destructive fires in California, prosecutors are taking crimes like arson incredibly seriously and prosecuting anyone accused of this crime to the fullest extent of the law. California law separates arson into two separate crimes - malicious arson and reckless arson. Malicious arson is defined as willfully and maliciously setting fire to a structure, forest, land, or other property. It is a felony offense and comes with serious penalties, including three to nine years in prison as well as fines and restitution for the property burned.
Reckless arson is defined as recklessly setting fire to a structure, forest, land, or property. This means that the person whose actions started the fire did so knowing that there was a substantial and unjustifiable risk that a fire would break out. A common example of this is setting off fireworks in a dry field. Reckless arson is called a “wobbler” crime, meaning that it can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor offense. Given the extreme difference in penalties for misdemeanor and felony offenses of arson, it is critical that you have an expert criminal defense attorney representing you if you are charged with this crime.
A Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney can Help
Have you been charged with arson or another serious crime in the Los Angeles area? If so, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side. Call the office or contact the Law Office of Bradley S. Sandler today to schedule a consultation for your criminal case.