The Penalties for Looting During a Natural Disaster

The Penalties for Looting During a Natural Disaster
The Penalties for Looting During a Natural Disaster

Should “looting” during an emergency or natural disaster become an automatic felony?

• Yes
• No
• Businesses only
• It depends

Answer: Yes

Yes. Looting during an emergency or natural disaster should become an automatic felony.

Here’s why…


It’s not uncommon to hear of people looting during catastrophic events. News reports often show videos of people carrying large televisions, computers, or shoes through flooded streets instead of food, water, or medical supplies.

In most cases, people found guilty of looting get charged with a fine and/or misdemeanor, depending on what was taken. Even if the act of looting was done to save someone’s life, you could still be charged with committing a lesser crime.

We know… looting in the act of saving a life would seem logical. It’s still viewed as a crime, though, and it’s up to a judge in a court of law to decide how to handle the situation. Looting laws help protect against people who intentionally loot for greed or selfish reasons.

So when does a person get charged with a felony during looting?


When a person breaks in and burglarizes a store, allowing other looters to make their way inside easily, that person could earn felony charges. Grand theft and the amount of items taken can also lead to a felony, such as when a criminal steals high-end items and expensive electronics or jewelry.

These are far more serious offenses than stealing some food because you were hungry. In California for example, looting charges can be filed as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the value of the merchandise looted. If it is $950.00 or less, it can only be a misdemeanor.

Found in Penal Code 463, if it’s more than $950.00, looting can be filed as a felony. As a misdemeanor, it carries a minimum of 90 days to one year in county jail. As a felony, California looting law imposes a penalty of between 180 days and 3 years in jail or state prison.

There are people who truly need help during an emergency or disaster. Every situation is different though, so everyone must make their own decision especially if it’s the difference between life and death.


Would you vote in a policy that would charge all looters with an automatic felony during any state of emergency or disaster?

~Here’s to Your Survival!

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