University Of California, Irvine Professor Charged With Arson Faces More Than Twelve Years In Prison

Tuesday, CNN reported that University of California professor Rainer Klaus Reinscheid, 48, was charged with two felony counts of arson of another’s property, two felony counts of arson of a structure, one felony count of arson of an inhabited residence, one felony count of attempted arson, and one misdemeanor count of resisting or obstructing an officer.

Reinscheid stands accused of setting fires at University High School in Irvine, California, the school that Reinscheid’s teenage son attended before he committed suicide earlier this year. According to the report, Reinscheid is alleged to have committed five arsons and one attempted arson between July 4 and July 24 of this year “by lighting various objects on fire including newspapers, fireplace logs, brush and vegetation, a book, and a plastic porch chair.”

The fires were set on University High School campus, in the park where Reinscheid’s son killed himself, and at a school administrator’s home.

What Is Arson?

California Penal Code Sections 451 and 452, prohibit a person from “willfully and maliciously” or, in some cases, “recklessly…setting a fire to someone else’s property.” The penalties for arson can be severe and generally depend on the type of property targeted by the offender, and whether or not the offense resulted in injury.

Although usually only applicable to fires set on another’s property, arson laws may apply if the offender sets fire to his or her own property for a fraudulent purpose, such as to collect on an insurance policy, or if a fire set by the offender on his own property causes injury to another person or damages to another’s home, property, or land.

What Are The Penalties For Arson?

The penalties for arson can vary depending on a variety of factors, however, the following illustrate the maximum penalties that can be imposed for arson offenses.

A “reckless burning” misdemeanor violation of California Penal Code Section 452 carries a maximum penalty of one year in a county jail and a fine of $1,000.

A felony arson or “reckless burning” violation of California Penal Code Section 451 or 452 carries a maximum penalty of one and a half to nine years in a state prison and a $50,000 fine.

A felony aggravated arson violation of California Penal Code Section 451 carries a consecutive sentence of one to five years in addition to any sentence imposed for the arson. Arson is considered “aggravated” under certain circumstances, such as the offender has a prior felony conviction for arson, the fire cause great bodily injury to a responding official, the fire affected multiple structures, or the offender used some means of accelerating or delaying the ignition of the fire.


Arson charges are very serious and can result in serious penalties. Accordingly, it is imperative that anyone accused of arson contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. Orange County criminal defense attorney Lauren K. Johnson has extensive experience protecting the rights of the accused. If you have questions regarding California’s criminal law or your rights, contact attorney Lauren K. Johnson today.