Criminal Law

1501. Arson: Great Bodily Injury

The defendant is charged [in Count ______] with arson that caused great bodily injury.

To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must prove that:

1. The defendant set fire to or burned [or (counseled[,]/ [or] helped[,]/ [or] caused) the burning of] (a structure/forest land/property);

2. (he/she) acted willfully and maliciously;


3. The fire caused great bodily injury to another person.

To set fire to or burn means to damage or destroy with fire either all or part of something, no matter how small the part.

Someone commits an act willfully when he or she does it willingly or on purpose.

Someone acts maliciously when he or she intentionally does a wrongful act or when he or she acts with the unlawful intent to defraud, annoy, or injure someone else.

Great bodily injury means significant or substantial physical injury. It is an injury that is greater than minor or moderate harm.

[A structure is any (building/bridge/tunnel/power plant/ commercial or public tent).]

[Forest land means brush-covered land, cut-over land, forest, grasslands, or woods.]

[Property means personal property or land other than forest land.]

[A person does not commit arson if the only thing burned is his or her own personal property, unless he or she acts with the intent to defraud, or the fire also injures someone else or someone else's structure, forest land, or property.]

Bench Notes

Instructional Duty

The court has a sua sponte duty to give an instruction defining the elements of the crime.

If the prosecution's theory is that the defendant did not set the fire but "counseled," "helped," or "caused" the fire, the court has a sua sponte duty to instruct on aiding and abetting. (People v. Sarkis (1990) 222 Cal.App.3d 23, 28 [272 Cal.Rptr. 34].) See CALCRIM Nos. 400-403.

Related Instructions

If attempted arson is charged, do not instruct generally on attempts but give CALCRIM No. 1520, Attempted Arson. (Pen. Code, § 455.)


Elements. Pen. Code, § 451.

Great Bodily Injury. Pen. Code, § 12022.7(f).

Structure, Forest Land, and Maliciously Defined. Pen. Code, § 450.

To Burn Defined. People v. Haggerty (1873) 46 Cal. 354, 355; In re Jesse L. (1990) 221 Cal.App.3d 161, 166-167 [270 Cal.Rptr. 389].

Secondary Sources

2 Witkin & Epstein, California Criminal Law (3d ed. 2000) Crimes Against Property, §§ 238-242.

5 Millman, Sevilla & Tarlow, California Criminal Defense Practice, Ch. 91, Sentencing, § 91.47[1] (Matthew Bender).

6 Millman, Sevilla & Tarlow, California Criminal Defense Practice, Ch. 143, Crimes Against Property, § 143.11 (Matthew Bender).

Lesser Included Offenses

Arson. Pen. Code, § 451.

Attempted Arson. Pen. Code, § 455.

Unlawfully Causing a Fire. People v. Hooper (1986) 181 Cal.App.3d 1174, 1182 [226 Cal.Rptr. 810], disapproved of in People v. Barton (1995) 12 Cal.4th 186 [47 Cal.Rptr.2d 569, 906 P.2d 531] on its holding that failure to instruct on this crime as a lesser included offense of arson was invited error because defense counsel objected to such instruction; People v. Schwartz (1992) 2 Cal.App.4th 1319, 1324 [3 Cal.Rptr.2d 816].

Related Issues

See the Related Issues section under CALCRIM No. 1515, Arson.

(New January 2006)