Definition and Aspects of Looting:
In times of uncertainty, mass uprisings, and state of emergency, public members could sometimes take advantage of the unprecedented situation they find themselves in. Under California Penal Code 463 (PC 463), Looting is a misdemeanor or potentially felony-level crime resulting in jail or prison sentences, hefty fines, and probation.
To be convicted of California Penal Code 463 (PC 463), the Prosecution must prove the following:
- The Defendant committed petty theft, grand theft, or commercial burglary
- The act was performed during a state of emergency
A ‘state of emergency’ can only be declared and later terminated by the state’s Governor. However, local emergencies can be asserted by a smaller body of government, such as city or county counsel. While the term ‘state of emergency’ can cover a broad umbrella of situations, below are a list of the most frequently occurring examples:
- Riot or unlawful assembly
- Storms or other severe weather conditions
- Other natural disasters
Since Looting involves either burglary, petty theft, or grand theft, below are the different definitions of each crime:
- Looting by Burglary
- The Defendant entered an uninhabited structure, such as a warehouse, store, or commercial storage unit
- The Defendant entered with the intention of committing either grand or petty theft or any other felony while inside
- Looting by Petty Theft
- The Defendant stole items worth $950 or less
- Looting by Grand Theft
- The Defendant stole items worth more than $950
Criminal Offenses Related to Looting:
Similar or related offenses to California Penal Code 463 (PC 463), Looting:
- Participating in a Riot – California Penal Code 405 (PC 405)
- Unlawful Assembly – California Penal Code 408 (PC 408)
- Burglary – California Penal Code 459 (PC 459)
- Petty Theft – California Penal Code 484 (PC 484)
- Grand Theft – California Penal Code 487 (PC 487)
- Grand Theft of a Firearm – California Penal Code 487(d)(2) (PC 487(d)(2))
Examples of Looting:
During the nationwide protests over the summer of 2020, some members of the crowd broke out and decided to enter shops outside of business hours, taking portable items from the stores without paying for them. Under California Penal Code 463 (PC 463), this constitutes as Looting, and those people could be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the items taken.
In another example, a severe flood cuts off an entire city from the rest of the state, and the residents are stuck. While waiting for rescue, in an act of desperation, a man breaks into a local store to take freshwater, food, and other necessities for survival. Since he did not have malicious intent but rather acted out of vital necessity, he could use that as a defense and most likely not be charged with Looting, California Penal Code 463 (PC 463).
Defenses to Looting:
Similar to the second example above, if the Defendant acted on a base of sheer necessity, it is a valid defense against looting charges. Under California Penal Code 463 (PC 463), if someone commits looting as the last alternative in a state of emergency, the charges could be dropped altogether.
If the Defendant entered a store or commercial establishment during a state of emergency that was broken into but lacked criminal intent at the time of entering, the charges could be reduced or dismissed. Under California Penal Code 463 (PC 463), the intent to steal items from the building needs to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. However, if the Defendant was caught inside without having taken anything, intent can be argued.
Additionally, tensions are high during a state of emergency, and the police are liable for making mistakes or acting out of fear or anger. If the search and seizure were made without a proper warrant or probable cause, an experienced Defense attorney could fight to reduce the charges or get them thrown out altogether. Great criminal attorneys are experienced in civil law and can help in cases of wrongful arrest.
Consequences and Penalty for Looting:
California Penal Code 463 (PC 463), Looting is a ‘wobbler’ offense, meaning it could either be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the seriousness of the crime.
Under California Penal Code 463 (PC 463), if the Looting involved a burglary, it is a ‘wobbler’ offense, with penalties for up to $1,000 in fines and up to one year in county jail if it charged as a misdemeanor. Additionally, community service can be assigned to make up for the loss of up to 240 hours.
If the Defendant gets a felony charge for Looting by burglary, on top of the probation time and community service, the penalties go up to $10,000 in fines and up to three years in county jail.
If the Looting involves petty theft, the offense a misdemeanor. Petty theft refers to items stolen under or equal to the value of $950. The punishment for misdemeanor looting is up to six months in county jail with a minimum sentence of 90 days, up to 80 hours of community service, and up to $1,000 in court-mandated fines.
If the Looting involves grand theft, meaning items taken for more than $950 in value, it is a ‘wobbler’ offense. If the Defendant is charged with misdemeanor looting by grand theft, he/she will be punished with 180 days – 1 year in jail.
If the grand theft looting is escalated to a felony, the Defendant can spend up to three years in state prison. If the Looting involved a grand theft of a firearm, the offense is automatically classified as a felony, and the punishment is up to three years in state prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
Looting, under California Penal Code 463 (PC 463), is a wobbler offense that can result in jail or prison time, fines, and probation. It is essential that if you or someone you know is charged with Looting, you contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
For an experienced attorney on your side, Action Lavitch from Action Defense Lawyers is available 24/7 at (747) DEFEND U or (747) 333-3638. With a proven track record of civil law, burglary or theft-related charges, and speaking both English and Spanish, Action Lavitch and the team from Action Defense Lawyers provide skilled legal representation and professional advice. Having an above 90% success rate for clients, Action Defense Lawyers is the go-to for those charged with California Penal Code Section 463 (PC 463), Looting. Book a free consultation today.