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F 14.87 n1 Possession Of “Incendiary Device” Etc.: Constitutional Challenge.
As of January 1, 1998, PC 453 was amended to include manufacturing or disposal of flammable or combustible/material/ substance, and “firebomb” was replaced with “incendiary device.” (See FORECITE’s 1997 Leg Up.) However, there are problems with the statute which may render it subject to challenge. First, as with the previous version of PC 453, there is no clear definition of “arrangement or preparation.”
Second, it is not apparent why subdivision (b)(3) is included in the statute. It defines “incendiary fire” but that term does not relate to the elements of the crime, i.e., possessing, manufacturing or disposing of the prohibited material or substance. Third, the statute requires that the person “know that the fire should not be ignited.” This is vague in that it isn’t clear what the person should know: e.g., that the fire could result in damage or injury or that it is illegal, etc. (See Kolender v. Lawson (83) 461 US 352, 357-60 [75 LEd2d 903; 103 SCt 1855] and People v. Superior Court (Caswell) (88) 46 C3d 381, 389-90 [250 CR 515].)
Fourth, the statute is overly broad in that it “broadly defines ‘incendiary device’ to include any device which is constructed or designed to start a fire. Such a definition encompasses devices or objects ranging from Molotov cocktails to packs of matches.” (Bill Analysis, Assembly Committee On Public Safety, 4/1/97. [A copy of the legislative analysis of AB 477 is available to FORECITE subscribers. Ask for Legislation Bank # L-2007].)