In an unpublished decision, the California Court of Appeal found no prejudicial error in the introduction of evidence of a four year old arson to the insured’s vehicle in an insured’s trial for arson and insurance fraud involving his business.
Valerio’s business was having financial difficulty. Six weeks after taking out a business insurance policy, a fire occurred. The investigation revealed gasoline and road flares were used to start the fire. Four years earlier, Valerio had presented an insurance claim for arson to his vehicle which also involved the use of gasoline and road flares. (The claim was paid and no criminal charges were brought.) Valerio was convicted of arson and insurance fraud, based in part on this prior act evidence. On appeal, he claimed the introduction of the prior arson was prejudicial. The appellate court affirmed, concluding that the evidence of the prior fire was not inadmissible, because “other act” evidence may be admitted when relevant to prove some other material fact, including intent, knowledge, identity, motive, or the existence of a common design or plan.
To view the opinion, click HERE.
In every country, particularly in highly industrialized ones, fire kills a significant percentage of people. In the U.S., it is one of the five leading causes of accidental death with about 3,500 fire deaths reported per year (12 per million population).1 In the UK, 451 fire-related deaths were reported in 2008 (7.1 deaths/1000 dwelling fires or 7.3 per million population).2 Scotland reported only 47 fire fatalities in 2010-11 and 59 for 2009-10.3 These figures are about half of what they were in the 1970’s. The involvement of the investigator or forensic specialist in fatal fires can come in any form, from any sector, and challenge one’s talents and knowledge to come to just and accurate conclusions. These cases require the highest degree of cooperation between the investigators who all have contributions to make towards a successful investigation. When deaths occur in a fire, the event becomes the focus of the press and the public as well as police, fire, insurance, and forensic professionals. When problems occur, they can have far-reaching consequences.
From Out of the Abyss...
This week's article is from the March 1956 VOL II, No 3 issue of the California Conference of Arson Investigators newsletter. It was written by George W. Lacy.
"What Constitutes Evidence", Analyzed Unusual Evidence for Scientific Identification.
Eldorado National-Kansas (Eldorado) is recalling certain model year 2010-2015 Amerivan and Amerivan 10 vehicles manufactured September 1, 2009, to March 28, 2016 on Dodge and Chrysler minivan chassis. The crimp fastener on the fuel line assembly of the affected vehicles may not be fully crimped, allowing fuel to leak at the hose to fitting assembly.
Find the details at NHTSA
This recall involves Rheem brand “Performance Platinum” electric water heaters in 40, 50 and 80 gallon capacities. The recalled water heaters are gray and have the “Performance Platinum” Rheem logo decal on the front above the thermostat control panel. The water heaters have a rating plate near the bottom of the unit with the model number, date of manufacture and serial number. Recalled water heaters have the following model number and have a serial number within the following ranges:
Serial Number Ranges
A0114XXXXX to A5214XXXXX
M0114XXXXX to M5214XXXXX
Q0114XXXXX to Q5214XXXXX
A1015XXXXX to A1615XXXXX
01Jan2014 – 21Dec2014
03Mar2015 – 13Apr2015
03Mar2015 – 13Apr2015
1Jan2014 – 21Dec2014
CCAI was recently contacted by CBS (San Francisco) News Investigative Reporter, Julie Watts, regarding fire retardant chemicals in child car seats, and was looking for footage of burning vehicles. We were happy to help.
SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — Car seats are the only consumer product that parents are legally required to purchase in every state, though they are also commonly used outside of the car as strollers seats, swing inserts and as a place for babies to sleep inside the home.
A recent KPIX investigation repeatedly uncovered concerning, even cancer-causing, chemicals in a majority of the car seats tested. Then, using biomonitoring, we linked high levels of cancer-causing flame retardants in a child’s body to the flame retardants in her car seat.
The alleged culprit: the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) 44-year old Federal Motor Vehicle Flammability Standard, FMVSS No. 302.
Click here for the video
Click on the link to see the full investigation.
Toxic Safety: Investigating Car Seat Chemicals
Legislation and Public Information
Tom Pierce, Committee Chair
Below you will find several pieces of legislation relating to fire, arson, and explosion investigation in California and on a national level. To find daily updates on any piece of pending California legislation go to http://www.leginfo.ca.gov
Beginning in January, over 800 new laws will become effective in California. Several of these laws may, or may not affect CCAI membership. Several of these new laws address public law enforcement and firefighting. I have selected those which appear to impact public sector fire investigation and law enforcement. One new law is relative to private sector investigators.
I suggest members read these laws, especially AB 2055.
Assembly Bill 1720 was signed into law by Governor Brown. As enacted, this Bill amends Section 415.21, Code of Civil Procedures, as to allow Private Investigators access into gated communities. The intent of this law specifically addresses process service. Investigations are excluded.
Assembly Bill 2055, as signed by the Governor, amends Section 1524 and 1525 of the Penal Code. The intent of this new law requires issuance of a Search Warrant whenever a tracking device is utilized. I believe this law has the most profound impact on our membership. (This should not come as a surprise).
Two of laws for those agencies with wildland responsibilities. Assembly Bill 2284 adds Section 12025 to the Fish & Game Code and amends Section 2810 of the Vehicle Code. While enforcement language is specific, this law allows for law enforcement intervention whenever irrigation materials are observed in a vehicle on forest roads. CCAI members employed by CalFire, L.A. County Fire or the USFS should review this law to determine enforcement authority.
Senate Bill 1367 amends Section 4370 of the Fish & Game Code. This new law allows for an archery hunter who has a valid CCW, to carry a weapon while hunting. Those CCAI members who validate deer tags should be aware of this new law.
While hundreds of new laws have been enacted, the aforementioned seem to have significance with regards to our members.
On February 18, 2010, a bill was introduced by Assembly Member Nathan Fletcher, AB 2276, which called for making Arson registration information in accordance with PC 457.1 available to Fire Chiefs of local fire departments and Fire Districts. The official summary of the bill is from the Legislative Counsel’s Digest.
“LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST
AB 2276, as introduced, Fletcher. Arson.
Existing law requires a convicted arsonist, as specified, to register with certain local officials in the area in which he or she resides, and makes it a misdemeanor to fail to register. Existing law also requires the registering law enforcement agency to forward certain information about the person to the Department of Justice, including a signed statement, and the person's fingerprints and photograph. Under existing law, those statements, photographs, and fingerprints are not open to inspection by the public or by any person other than a regularly employed peace officer or other law enforcement officer. This bill would require the Department of Justice to make all of these statements, photographs, and fingerprints available to all chief fire officials of legally organized fire departments or fire protection districts in the state.”
During the CCAI Board of Directors meeting on March 21, 2010, the Board unanimously voted to support this piece of legislation. A letter of support was sent to Assembly Member Fletcher.
In the committee review process, Assembly Member Fletcher provided the following information in an analysis prepared by Melina Nelson of the Committee on Public Safety submitted on April 6, 2010:
“1)Author’s Statement: According to the author, "When registering with local authorities, arsonists' information is ONLY given to the law enforcement and fire agencies overseeing where the arsonist resides.”
“In many parts of California borders of multiple counties and cities are within a very small geographic area. People move freely from county to county on a regular basis falling under the jurisdiction of multiple law enforcement and fire agencies. It is necessary for law enforcement and fire agencies to have access to this information in order to prevent possible re-offense by registered arsonists. County and city lines do not stop arsonists from starting fires beyond their area of residence. AB 2276 will give these authorities the ability to keep track of arsonists who are potential threats in their area even if the arsonist does not reside within that jurisdiction."
“2)Background: According to background information provided by the author, The 2009 Station Fire which burned over 160,000 acres or 250 square miles, burned for over 50 days, destroyed over 200 structures and killed two firefighters is one example of the hundreds of fires started each year by arsonist in California. The Station Fire cost the state over $30 million, and is expected to carry a price tag of over $40 million in clean up.”
"In 2009 California had over 5,000 fires throughout the state. In Cal Fire regulated area alone on average 323 fires were started by arsonists each year.”
"California's Arson Registry: In 1985, California established an arson registry in which all convicted arsonist must register with certain local official in the area in which the arsonist resides. An adult arsonist must register for life, while youth are removed at 25 or when their records are sealed. As of September 2009 3,700 people around the state were on the registry.”
"When registering with local authorities, arsonists' information is given to the law enforcement and fire agencies overseeing where the arsonist resides. DOJ is sent all information throughout the state and places for the California's Arson Registry.”
"Problem: In many parts of California, borders of multiple counties and cities are within a very small geographic area. People move freely from county to county on a regular basis falling under the jurisdiction of multiple buy xanax online enforcement and fire agencies.”
"It is necessary for law enforcement and fire agencies to have access to this information in order to prevent possible re-offense by registered arsonists. County and city lines do not stop arsonists from starting fires beyond their area of residence. AB 2276 will give these authorities the ability to keep track of arsonists who are potential threats in their area even if the arsonist does click here reside within that jurisdiction."
“3)Chief Fire Officials Should Have Access to the Arson Registry: In investigating possible incidences of arson, the chief fire official is an essential part of the investigation. The information included in the arson registry, including a picture of the registered individual, and his or her fingerprint and location, will likely prove to be a valuable tool to chief fire officials in these investigations. Additionally, because the information in the registry is already collected and accessible to law enforcement officers, there is very little additional cost.”
In an analysis prepared by Geoff Long of the House Appropriations Committee submitted on April 21, 2010, several points and concerns were raised in the report.
1) As the bill does not clearly define "chief fire officials," or specify the method of providing this information, the costs of this measure could range from minor local costs to establish electronic case-by-case request protocols, to several million dollars in nonreimbursable local costs to support provide dedicated data lines for local fire officials. (Currently law enforcement accesses the information via a secure law enforcement website, which includes access to the state sex offender registry.)
2) One-time costs in the range of $150,000 (GF) to DOJ to establish system protocols.
1) Rationale. The author contends providing arson registry information to firefighters in addition to law visit us officers would enhance arson prevention efforts.
2) Current law requires any person convicted of arson or attempted arson, as specified, to register with the local chief of police or sheriff. Registration is for life, unless the offender was a minor adjudicated as a ward of the court, in which case registration is required until age 25. Failure to register is a misdemeanor. Only peace officers may access registration information. There are about 3,700 registered arsonists.
3)Concerns. The author's office has agreed to address a series of concerns while the bill is on the Suspense File.
a) The problem addressed by this bill is not clear. How will the expansion of access to arson registry information help prevent arson? Current law provides access to this information to peace officer arson investigators of fire departments. It is not clear how or why this is not sufficient.
b) DOJ's CA Sex and Arson Registry (CSAR), formerly the Violent Crime and Information Network, (VCIN)), includes both the arson and sex offender registries, which makes providing access to non-peace officers problematic.
c) The universe of "all chief fire officials" who could access the arson registry should be clarified.
d) The method of providing information needs to be clarified, particularly as this is the cost driver.
e) The expanded access proposed by this bill should be cross-referenced in subdivision (j).”
On May 28, 2010, this bill was held under submission in the Appropriations Committee and is no longer being considered. According to Assembly Member Fletcher’s Office, a key element of this bill not moving forward was the financial impact of implementation.
Information concerning this bill, or the status of any piece of legislation introduced in either the Assembly or the Senate can be found at: www.leginfo.ca.gov
Below is a summary of recent bills supported by CCAI.
Assembly Bill #27 – This bill would increase the amount of damage required for a person to be guilty of aggravated arson from 5,650,000 to 6,500,000 and would extend the repeal date for the provisions relating to property damage until January 1, 2014. Approved by the Governor on August 5, 2009 and filed with the Secretary of State on August 6, 2009.
Assembly Bill #1385 – This bill would expand the definition of Peace Officer to include peace officers defined in PC 830.37 for the purposes of using an emergency vehicle that will allow the use of a steady or flashing blue warning light visible from the front, sides, or rear of the vehicle. Passed by the State Assembly on September 9, 2009 and vetoed by the Governor on October 11, 2009
Assembly Bill #388 – This bill would require, subject to exceptions, that vendors of firefighting uniforms verify that a person purchasing a uniform identifying a firefighting agency is an employee of the agency identified on the uniform. Approved by the Governor on August 5, 2009 and filed with the Secretary of State on August 6, 2009.
Assembly Bill #937 - This bill would impose registration requirements parallel to those applicable in arson cases on violators of certain laws regulating the possession and use of destructive devices. On May 28, 2009, this bill was held under submission in committee.
Senate Bill #169 – This bill would authorize the head of a local agency that employs peace officers to issue identification in the form of a badge, insignia, emblem, device, label, certificate, card, or writing that clearly states the person’s position as an honorably retired peace officer from that agency, as specified. The bill would also authorize the head of a local agency to revoke identification granted pursuant to those provisions in the event of misuse or abuse. Approved by the Governor on October 11, 2009 and filed with the Secretary of State on October 11, 2009.
In March of 2009, The CCAI Board of Directors agreed to urge Senator Ron Calderon, author of SB 839 to propose legislation that would make the possession of an agricultural and wildlife firework unlawful without first securing a permit from the State Fire Marshal. Additionally, we agreed to urge Senator Calderon to include language making it unlawful to possess with the intent to use, or intend to use, the same type of firework contrary to its intended use. This language was in the original text of SB 839 that went into law on January 1, 2008 but was omitted prior to passage. A letter to this effect was sent to Senator Calderon in March of 2009.
The California Legislative session is now in full swing. Many bills have been introduced on numerous topics by nearly every Sate Senator and Assembly Member.
On February 18, 2010, a bill was introduced bill by Assembly Member Nathan Fletcher, AB 2276, that calls for making Arson registration information in accordance with PC 457.1 now available to Fire Chiefs of local fire departments and Fire Districts.
During the CCAI Board of Directors meeting on March 21, 2010, the Board unanimously voted to support this piece of legislation. A letter of support has been sent to Assembly Member Fletcher. A summary of the bill follows:
The 2009 California Legislative session is in full swing with numerous pending bills up for consideration. As these bills move through the committee process, they may be amended or revised many times. In some cases, the final version of the bill may exclude some of the main points of the original proposal in order to secure passage.
At the recent CCAI Board of Directors Meeting in March 2009, the Board voted to support the following pieces of pending legislation:.
Introduced by Assembly Member Jefferies
December 1, 2008
The following is from
"An act to amend Section 451.5 of the Penal Code."
Introduced by Assembly Member Smyth
February 26, 2009
An act to add Section 12314 to the Penal Code, relating to destructive devices.
Introduced by Assembly Member Miller
February 27, 2009
An act to amend Section 25258 of the Vehicle Code, relating to vehicles
Introduced by Senator Benoit
February 14, 2009
"An act to amend Section 538d of the Penal Code, relating to crime."
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