Whether San Diego is going through the emergency of the coronavirus, wildfires or mass protests, there are many cases where a handful of people may consider the havoc and danger of these situations to be a unique opportunity to steal from shops and homes. So how are California’s looting laws different from ordinary theft laws and what are the potential penalties? San Diego looting lawyer Peter M. Liss explains.
California Looting Laws?
Essentially, looting is any type of theft that occurs during an emergency. It’s generally looked down upon more than other forms of theft as it is considered to be taking advantage of the public’s fear for your own gain. In California though, the charge is only marginally worse than other theft charges. That is, in petty theft looting cases, for example, you will face mostly the same penalties as you would for petty theft. The only difference is that looting penalties in California carry a minimum sentence unlike other theft crimes. In petty crimes, the minimum sentence is 90 days.
For grand theft or burglary, looting may involve a minimum sentence of 180 days. The judge still has the option to waive the mandatory minimum sentences and order community service instead of jail, which is why you should always work with a top San Diego looting attorney.
Fighting Charges With a San Diego Looting Lawyer
There are a number of different defense strategies you can use to fight a looting charge. For example, if you looted a store for materials you needed to survive, your San Diego looting defense lawyer can argue that you were only doing what was necessary in a time of emergency. Additionally, because looting cases often occur during times of extreme chaos, mistaken identity is a common problem when it comes to identifying the person responsible for a crime. In cases involving San Diego’s notorious wildfires or during protests, it’s easy to see how a layer of smoke or teargas could impair someone’s ability to correctly identify the person who committed a crime.
Even if you are guilty and were even caught in the act though, a good criminal lawyer can still make a drastic difference in your case by negotiating a plea bargain, arguing that you did not steal more than $950, making the crime a petty theft, a misdemeanor. Alternatively, even grand theft can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony and your attorney may be able to ensure you are charged with a misdemeanor, facing minimal penalties.
If you have any questions about the looting laws in California or have been accused of any form of theft, Peter M. Liss can help. Please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case.
Creative Commons Image by Surian Soosay