What Counts as Looting in California?

What-Counts-as-Looting-in-California

Whenever an emergency strikes, people are bound to panic. This is only natural as systems that people have been able to rely on for their day to day lives begin to shut down. This is exactly what is happening as the COVID-19, Coronavirus pandemic spreads across the world. In response to this virus, many non-essential systems have been shut down to reduce the spread of the disease.

Combine this with the fact that thousands, if not millions, of people have been panic stockpiling all kinds of resources, making it harder for everyone to get even the essentials, a lot of people are scared. For most people, this just means staying at home and avoiding going into public, which is what everyone should be doing anyway.
Unfortunately, there are people out there that see the deserted shopping centers and decide to use that to their advantage. These people figure that if no one is around to stop them, they can do whatever they want without fear of repercussion. However, that is not the case. Law enforcement agencies are still operating and enforcing the law. If they catch anyone looting, there will be consequences.

California’s Different Looting Laws

California state law defines the act of looting as someone committing second-degree burglary within a county or area that is currently experiencing a state of emergency due to natural or manmade disasters. This definition does include the national emergency called in response to the Coronavirus.
The following laws can all be considered looting under California law:

  • •Penal Code (PC) 459 Burglary
  • •PC 484 Petty Theft
  • •PC 487 Grand Theft

Burglary is defined as the act of entering a house or any other building with the intent of committing larceny. In other words, burglary is the act of going into a building to steal something. First-degree burglary occurs when a person enters a residential building. Second-degree burglary occurs when a person enters a commercial building.
Petty theft is defined as wrongfully taking someone else’s property that is valued at less than $950. Grand theft is the same, except the value of the items exceeds $950.
The difference between burglary and theft is that burglary is entering a place with the intent to steal something. Theft is the actual act of stealing something. This means that a person may not be charged with theft if they try and fail to steal something, but they could still be charged with burglary for attempting to do so.

The Penalties of Looting

The penalties for looting are dependent on what particular crime the person committed. When it comes to burglary or grand theft, a person can either be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the facts of the case.
Looting by burglary and looting grand theft have the same consequences. When the crimes are charged as misdemeanors, they come with:

  • •Up to 1 year in county jail.
  • •A max fine of $1,000.
  • •Misdemeanor probation.
  • •Up to 240 hours of community service.

As a felonies, the crimes comes with:

  • •16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in county jail.
  • •A max fine of $10,000.
  • •Felony probation.
  • •Up to 240 hours of community service.

Petty theft looting is always a misdemeanor offense and comes with:

  • •Up to 6 months in county jail.
  • •A max fine of $1,000.
  • •Misdemeanor probation.
  • •Up to 80 hours of community service.

Don’t Be a Looter

Stealing is never a good idea. However, doing it during an emergency is especially horrible. People already have enough problems to deal with during an emergency, such as the spreading of a virus. They shouldn’t have to worry about people looting their homes and stores. This is why the act of looting is illegal, and it is taken very seriously.

What are your thoughts on California’s looting laws and looters in general? Do you think the laws are enough of a deterrent or should the consequences be more severe? Maybe you think the laws are too harsh as is. Let us know what you think in the comments down below.