CALCRIM No. 1515. Arson (Pen. Code, § 451(c) & (d))
Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (2023 edition)Download PDF
(ii) Simple Arson
1515.Arson (Pen. Code, § 451(c) & (d))
The defendant is charged [in Count ] with arson [in violation of
Penal Code section 451(c/d)].
To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must
1. The defendant set fire to or burned [or (counseled[,]/ [or]
helped[,]/ [or] caused) the burning of] (a structure/forest land/
2. (He/She) acted willfully and maliciously.
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
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.
[A structure is any (building/bridge/tunnel/power plant/commercial or
[Forest land means brush-covered land, cut-over land, forest, grasslands,
[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.]
New January 2006; Revised February 2013, August 2016, April 2020
The court has a sua sponte duty to give an instruction defining the elements of the
If it is also alleged that the fire caused great bodily injury or burned an inhabited
structure or property, see CALCRIM No. 1501, Arson: Great Bodily Injury and
CALCRIM No. 1502, Arson: Inhabited Structure.
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(c-d).
• Structure, Forest Land, and Maliciously Defined. Pen. Code, § 450; see People v.
Labaer (2001) 88 Cal.App.4th 289, 293-294 [105 Cal.Rptr.2d 629] [“structure”
does not require finished or completed building].
• General Intent Crime. People v. Atkins (2001) 25 Cal.4th 76, 83-84, 86 [104
Cal.Rptr.2d 738, 18 P.3d 660] [evidence of voluntary intoxication not admissible
to negate mental state].
• Property Defined. In re L.T. (2002) 103 Cal.App.4th 262, 264-265 [126
• 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].
LESSER INCLUDED OFFENSES
• 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].
Fire damage to fixtures within a building may satisfy the burning requirement if the
fixtures are an integral part of the structure. (In re Jesse L. (1990) 221 Cal.App.3d
161, 167-168 [270 Cal.Rptr. 389]; People v. Lee (1994) 24 Cal.App.4th 1773, 1778
[30 Cal.Rptr.2d 224] [whether wall-to-wall carpeting is a fixture is question of fact
Arson includes burning a victim’s clothing. (People v. Reese (1986) 182 Cal.App.3d
737, 739-740 [227 Cal.Rptr. 526].)
ARSON CALCRIM No. 1515
Burning trash that does not belong to the defendant is arson. There is no
requirement for arson that the property belong to anyone. (In re L.T. (2002) 103
Cal.App.4th 262, 264 [126 Cal.Rptr.2d 778].)
Dual Convictions Prohibited
A single act of arson cannot result in convictions under different subdivisions of
Penal Code section 451. (People v. Shiga (2019) 34 Cal.App.5th 466, 475 [246
2 Witkin & Epstein, California Criminal Law (4th ed. 2012) Crimes Against
Property, §§ 268-276.
6 Millman, Sevilla & Tarlow, California Criminal Defense Practice, Ch. 143, Crimes
Against Property, § 143.11 (Matthew Bender).
1516-1519. Reserved for Future Use
CALCRIM No. 1515 ARSON