Criminal Law

1520. Attempted Arson

The defendant is charged [in Count ______] with the crime of attempted arson.

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

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


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

A person attempts to set fire to or burn (a structure/forest land/ property) when he or she places any flammable, explosive, or combustible material or device in or around it with the intent to set fire to it.

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.

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

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

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

Bench Notes

Instructional Duty

The court has a sua sponte duty to give an instruction defining the elements of the crime. Attempted arson is governed by Penal Code section 455, not the general attempt statute found in section 664. (People v. Alberts (1995) 32 Cal.App.4th 1424, 1427-1428 [37 Cal.Rptr.2d 401] [defendant was convicted under §§ 451 and 664; the higher sentence was reversed because § 455 governs attempted arson].)


Elements. Pen. Code, § 455.

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

Secondary Sources

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

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

(New January 2006)