As of March 31st, the total number of COVID-19 cases in the US was 164,266, with California among the top three states leading in the number of infections. To curb the risk of exposure through community transmission, the government has imposed strict guidelines on social distancing. But what does this mean for the average American who can’t make a living from the confines of their home?
Those who could afford have already stocked up on supplies. Shelves in stores are lying empty without essentials like toilet paper and bread. The vast majority of the population is wondering: Where will I get my next meal? If the government doesn’t work to contain the coronavirus AND feed its people at the same time, chaos is bound to erupt, and looting will be the least of our problems. That being said, we understand WHY the average American would go as far as participating in looting. Your basic instinct to survive is kicking in, so why not do it the “proper” way?
What the Law Says
According to Section 463 of the California Penal Code, looting is when an individual commits burglary (Penal Code 459), grand theft (Penal Code 487), or petty theft (Penal Code 484) during a state of or local emergency imposed by the mayor, governor, or president of the US. The penalties of looting highly depend on the crime committed, but convictions can either be misdemeanors or felonies (often known as wobbler crimes). Misdemeanors carry fairly lenient penalties, but specific circumstances can elevate your misdemeanor charges to a felony.
Here are a few tips on how you can carry out and get away with looting.
- Get a Mask – For obvious reasons, being able to hide your identity should be your priority. This is the basic requirement in theft. If you do manage to loot a store successfully, it would all go down in shambles if your face is plastered on the morning news from cameras you would have expertly evaded if you had simply worn a mask. Try a ski mask works or anything that completely covers your head, including your hair.
- Be Discreet – If you target your neighborhood shop, you run higher chances that the owner or eyewitnesses can perfectly describe how you look, walk and dress. For your looting gig, consider changing your style into something that you would not normally wear. It is best advised to go incognito and cover up from head to toe in black. The less you reveal to cameras and potential eyewitnesses, the better.
- Be in the Company of Other Looters – It could be easier to defend you in court if you are arrested among other looters. What evidence would prosecution have that you had the intent to steal? Maybe you were just an innocent bystander when chaos broke loose, and you somehow found yourself caught up in the incident.
- “Shop” Light – Take only what is essential. You want to be ready to make a fast getaway when your plan is foiled. That 53″ High Definition curved TV on the shelf might look tempting, but it would be difficult to carry when running away. Instead, consider packing essentials like food, toiletries, drugs, or things that are high in demand items if the economy completely collapses.
- Take Off the Tags – If you can, try and take off the tags. Some well-equipped stores have sensors on their products that go off the minute the item is off the premises without a scan. You can also try and scrape off the barcode from the items to avoid the sensors.
- Have an Escape Plan – In other words, “casing the joint” and being familiar with your surroundings is crucial. In the event you need to flee the scene or the police, you should at least know how you will make it out.
- Prepare for the Worst – You probably hoped that looting would be a stealth operation you carried out successfully, but now you have law enforcement hot on your tail, which is why it’s also important to plan for this BEFORE the operation. Here are a few tips that can help you evade the police and minimize detection altogether.
If you do get caught, Criminal Defense Hero is ready to help. Here are a few possible defenses:
- You Lacked the Criminal Intent to Steal – We can try and show the court that you had no intent to commit a theft or burglary. If there were other looters in the premises, we could fight these charges by pointing out the lack of hard evidence that you intended to steal from the store.
- Lack of Probable Cause – When the economy and social structures in place are falling, even the police can act irrationally. We can try and convince the court that the police made an arrest without a warrant or probable cause.
- Mistaken Identity – If the prosecution can’t prove that you’re the one who was at the scene of the crime, the case against you doesn’t hold. For example, an eye witness could have mistaken you for someone else with similar features.
We hope that the situation does not drive the public to engage in looting. Looting is still a crime, and guilty offenders will be prosecuted by the full extent of the law.
If you have any standing criminal charges against you about looting, theft, or burglary, please contact us at The DUI Attorney, Criminal Defense Hero about your criminal case.
This article is for entertainment and fun informational purposes only and in no way represents the attitudes or viewpoints of our law offices.