The Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

Fire Starters: Arsonists Set Man on Fire, Burn Down Carport

The fire starters were out in force over the weekend, causing thousands of dollars in damage in Pomona and setting a man on fire in Long Beach, reports the Los Angeles Times. So far, the two arsonist attacks are not thought to be related.

In the Friday evening attack, a victim was waiting for his father to finish grocery shopping when he was attacked with a Molotov cocktail. The identity and motive of the attacker are unknown. The Long Beach Police Department released surveillance video of the attack on Sunday. Anyone with a tip should call (562) 570-2582.

The second major act of arson over the weekend happened in Pomona at 12:45 a.m. on Sunday. An unknown individual set fire to a trash bin, several cars, and then a row of cars in a carport. Several cars and a boat were destroyed. Estimates of the damage are at least $40,000 so far. Anyone with information is urged to call (626) 433-1011.

The penalty for arson depends on the circumstances of the fire. If someone is greatly injured, as happened in the Long Beach attack, the penalty is between five and nine years in prison. The penalty for burning an inhabited structure, such as a home or a store, is three to eight years. For the Pomona arsonist, the penalty would be 16 months to 3 years in prison.

There are also sentencing enhancements available, which provide a three to five year bonus sentence added to the base charge. The enhancement is available when:

  • More than one victim suffers great bodily injury or death;
  • There was a previous conviction for arson or "reckless fire starting";
  • A firefighter, peace officer, or other emergency personnel suffered great bodily injury as a result of the fire;
  • Multiple structures were burned;
  • An accelerant or delayed ignition were used for certain types of fires.

Because a Molotov cocktail, such as the one allegedly used in the Long Beach attack, contains flammable liquid, the attacker in that case might be facing a sentencing enhancement if he is located and charged.

Finally, there is also aggravated arson, which is applicable when more than 5 inhabited structures are burned, the offender had a previous arson conviction within 10 years, or more than $6.5 million in damage resulted from the fire. Aggravated arson can result in a sentence of 10 years to life.

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