California Criminal Jury Instructions (CALCRIM) (2017)

1531. Unlawfully Causing a Fire: Inhabited Structure

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1531.Unlawfully Causing a Fire: Inhabited Structure (Pen. Code,
§ 452)
The defendant is charged [in Count ] with unlawfully causing a
fire that burned an inhabited structure [in violation of Penal Code
section 452].
To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must
prove that:
1. The defendant set fire to[,] [or] burned[,] [or caused the burning
of] (a structure/forest land/property);
2. The defendant did so recklessly;
3. The fire burned an inhabited structure.
<Alternative A—Recklessness: General Definition>
[A person acts recklessly when (1) he or she is aware that his or her
actions present a substantial and unjustifiable risk of causing a fire, (2)
he or she ignores that risk, and (3) ignoring the risk is a gross deviation
from what a reasonable person would have done in the same situation.]
<Alternative B—Recklessness: Voluntary Intoxication>
[A person acts recklessly when (1) he or she does an act that presents a
substantial and unjustifiable risk of causing a fire but (2) he or she is
unaware of the risk because he or she is voluntarily intoxicated.
Intoxication is voluntary if the defendant willingly used any intoxicating
drink, drug, or other substance knowing that it could produce an
intoxicating effect.]
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.
Astructure is a (building/bridge/tunnel/power plant/commercial or
public tent).
A structure is inhabited if someone lives there and either (a) is present
or (b) has left but intends to return.
[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 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 another person or another person’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
Instructional Duty
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 rather
“aided, counseled or procured” 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.
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.
Inhabited Defined. Pen. Code, § 450; People v. Guthrie (1983) 144
Cal.App.3d 832, 838, 848 [193 Cal.Rptr. 54]; People v. Jones (1988) 199
Cal.App.3d 543 [245 Cal.Rptr. 85].
• 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].
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[2] (Matthew Bender).
6 Millman, Sevilla & Tarlow, California Criminal Defense Practice, Ch. 143,
Crimes Against Property, § 143.11 (Matthew Bender).
• Unlawfully Causing a Fire. Pen. Code, § 452.
See the Related Issues sections under CALCRIM No. 1515, Arson and CALCRIM
No. 1532, Unlawfully Causing a Fire.