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Arson Registration Requirement - Penal Code 457.1 PC

Posted by Dmitry Gorin | Mar 12, 2024

Most people in California are at least vaguely familiar with the requirement to register as a sex offender if you are convicted of certain sex crimes. However, these crimes aren't the only offenses requiring inclusion on a registry. 

Once you have been convicted of arson or attempted arson, if you continue to reside or remain in California after your release from custody, you must register your address with local law enforcement as a convicted arsonist under Penal Code 457.1 PC. 

Arson Registration Requirement in California - Penal Code 457.1 PC
Penal Code 457.1 PC requires convicted arsonists to register with local law enforcement.

Failing to do so could result in having your probation revoked (if applicable), along with additional charges and jail time.

PC 457.1 says, “(a) As used in this section, “arson” means a violation of Section 451, 451.5, or 453, and attempted arson, which includes, but is not limited to, a violation of Section 455.

(b)(1) Every person described in paragraphs (2), (3), and (4), for the periods specified therein, shall, while residing in, or if the person has no residence, while located in California, be required to, within 14 days of coming into or changing the person's residence or location within any city, county, city, and county, or campus wherein the person temporarily resides, or if the person has no residence, is located:

(A) Register with the police chief of the city where the person resides or, if the person has no residence, where the person is located.

(B) Register with the county sheriff where the person resides or, if the person does not reside, where the person is in an unincorporated area or city with no police department.

(C) In addition to (A) or (B) above, register with the chief of police of a campus of the University of California, the California State University, or community college where the person is residing, or if the person has no residence, where the person is located upon the campus or any of its facilities.”

How Does the Arson Registration Process Work?

Under Penal Code 457.1 PC, if you are convicted of arson or attempted arson in California, you must register with the police department in your city or with the sheriff's department if you live in an unincorporated area. 

You must report to the local law enforcement agency to register within 14 days of arriving in any city or county where you plan to reside, work, or attend school. This registration includes a written statement signed by you, fingerprints, and a photograph.

California Arson Registration Process

The initial registration must occur immediately upon release from incarceration or, if not incarcerated, immediately following sentencing. If you move, you have ten days to notify local law enforcement in writing of your new address, and you must register with your new local law enforcement within 14 days of your move.

Arson offenders can register with the police chief in the city where they reside or are located. If there is no permanent residence, they can register where they are. 

In the absence of a city police department or if residing in an unincorporated area, offenders must register with the county sheriff. For those living or located at the University of California, California State University, or a community college campus, registration should be done with the campus's police chief.

Anyone who committed arson or attempted arson and, after having been adjudicated a ward of the juvenile court, is discharged or paroled from the Division of Juvenile Justice must register, in accordance with these until they reach the age of 25 or until their records are sealed under Section 781 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, whichever comes first.

How Long Must You Continue to Register?

PC 457.1 details three scenarios to determine how long you must register as a convicted arsonist:

  • Juvenile Offenders: For offenders who committed or attempted arson and were adjudicated as wards of the juvenile court on or after January 1, 1993, registration must continue until they reach 25 years of age or have their records sealed, whichever comes first.
  • Offenses Committed Between 1985 and 1994: Registration must be maintained for five years for individuals convicted of arson or attempted arson between January 1, 1985, and November 29, 1994. This provision of the law is effectively obsolete since anyone convicted of arson during this time would no longer be required to register.
  • All Other Offenses: Individuals convicted of arson or attempted arson on or after November 30, 1994, must register for the rest of their lives.

What are the Consequences of Non-Compliance?

Non-compliance with the registration requirement is considered a misdemeanor offense. Any person who willfully violates these provisions can face a term of not less than 90 days nor more than one year in a county jail. Failure to register within the stipulated time can also lead to the revocation of parole or probation by the Division of Juvenile Justice or the court.

Advice for Compliance

If you are accused of a crime of arson in California, seeking representation from a skilled California criminal defense attorney is your best option for possibly avoiding conviction and the subsequent registration requirement. However, heeding the following will help you avoid facing additional penalties for failure to register if you are convicted of arson.

Prompt Registration and Information Accuracy

To avoid legal consequences, register within the specified timeline. Notify the appropriate authorities promptly when changing residence or location. Provide accurate and complete information as the Department of Justice requires, including the signed written statement, fingerprints, and photographs. If released on probation, comply with the registration process as instructed by the probation department and provide the new address to the probation officer.

Updating Address Information

If your residence address changes, inform the law enforcement agency you last registered with within ten days. The agency will then forward the updated information to the Department of Justice.

Save All Documentation

Keeping copies of all registration-related documents, including proof of submission and any correspondence with law enforcement agencies is beneficial. These documents can serve as evidence of compliance and may be helpful in any disputes or misunderstandings.

What Does it Mean to Be a Registered Arson Offender?

Being a registered arson offender means your name will be on a list maintained by local law enforcement, and you must report any change in address within ten days. The obligation lasts a minimum of five years but is usually not lifelong. This duty to register is for anyone convicted of:

  • Maliciously setting fire to property,  
  • Committing arson to cause bodily injury,
  • Arson of an inhabited structure of property,
  • Arson of a structure or forest land,
  • Attempted arson,
  • Possession of a device to commit arson and
  • Possessing or manufacturing a firebomb.

The California Department of Corrections must give written notice of your impending release if you are in custody for an arson crime. The notice is given to the fire marshal, police departments, and the sheriff in the county where you were convicted. Contact our law firm for more information. Eisner Gorin LLP has offices in Los Angeles, CA.

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About the Author

Dmitry Gorin

Dmitry Gorin is a licensed attorney, who has been involved in criminal trial work and pretrial litigation since 1994. Before becoming partner in Eisner Gorin LLP, Mr. Gorin was a Senior Deputy District Attorney in Los Angeles Courts for more than ten years. As a criminal tri...

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