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Can You Be Charged for Arson in Gender Reveals Gone Wrong?

Abandoned house fully engulfed in flames
By Ashley Ravid on September 21, 2020 6:59 PM

The latest in a long string of apocalyptic headlines in 2020 is the wildfires currently smoldering along the West Coast.

Over 7,000 acres were burned by one particular California blaze that was recklessly sparked by a gender reveal party. Could the soon-to-be parents face criminal charges for their stunt gone wrong?

Arson Laws by State

Every state has at least some form of arson laws, though the specifics vary. Punishments can vary between fines and prison time depending on what was burned, whether people were injured, and whether the fire was set deliberately or by accident.

In California, for example, the charge of arson is different from aggravated arson, which is either a repeated offense or has caused over $6.5 million in damages. Both require that a person deliberately set the fire. However, burning forest land is also illegal, and those who cause fires through negligence can face a charge of unlawfully causing a fire.

In Arizona, arson can either be a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the exact circumstances of the fire.

Pyrotechnic Precedent

The El Dorado fire isn't the first blaze in recent years to start from an elaborate gender reveal party gone wrong. In 2018, a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent's celebration went awry and ended up burning around 47,000 acres. He was later sentenced to five years of probation and required to pay over $200,000 dollars in restitution.

It's possible that the California couple responsible for setting the El Dorado fire will face charges eventually, but prosecutors have yet to bring them forth. And remember, if you want to celebrate the coming of your new child ... perhaps consider a cake instead of an explosion.

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