[A person does not unlawfully cause a ﬁre 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.]
[Arson and unlawfully causing a ﬁre require different mental states. For
arson, a person must act willfully and maliciously. For unlawfully
causing a ﬁre, a person must act recklessly.]
New January 2006
The court has a sua sponte duty to give an instruction deﬁning the elements of the
If the prosecution’s theory is that the defendant did not set the ﬁre but “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.
Depending upon the theory of recklessness the prosecutor is alleging, the court
should instruct with alternative A or B.
If the defendant is also charged with arson, the court may wish to give the last
bracketed paragraph, which explains the difference in intent between unlawfully
causing a ﬁre and arson. (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 the point that defense counsel’s objection to
instruction on lesser included offense constituted invited error; People v. Schwartz
(1992) 2 Cal.App.4th 1319, 1324 [3 Cal.Rptr.2d 816].)
• Elements. Pen. Code, § 452.
•Great Bodily Injury. Pen. Code, § 12022.7(e).
• Structure, Forest Land Deﬁned. Pen. Code, § 450.
• Difference Between This Crime and Arson. People v. Hooper (1986) 181
Cal.App.3d 1174, 1182 [226 Cal.Rptr. 810].
• 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].
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 (Matthew Bender).
CALCRIM No. 1530 ARSON