California Penal Code 463 - Looting

Facing a looting offense is not something you should ignore. This offense is treated just as seriously as theft or burglary charges.

An offense like this on your criminal record will have a long-term impact on your future employment goals and housing opportunities. It is recommended you get the help of an expert criminal defense attorney to fight these allegations on your behalf.

For a more comprehensive view of what looting is, let’s take a look at how California defines looting.

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Definition of Looting

California outlines what looting is under Penal Code 463. It states looting is when you commit;

  • Burglary, petty theft, or grand theft,
    • Burglary is breaking and entering a property with the intent to steal something.
    • Petty theft is stealing an object or item that is valued at nine-hundred-fifty dollars or less.
    • Grand theft is taking something that is valued at nine-hundred-fifty dollars or more.
  • During a state of emergency.
    • Such an emergency is usually declared by a local government or by the Governor of California as a result of;
      • Severe storms or extreme weather,
      • Devastating earthquakes,
      • Riots,
      • Extreme flooding, or
      • Wildfires.
    • A local or state of emergency means the situation is beyond the sole control of any one city or county. This means frontline personnel, equipment, and emergency services from multiple counties and regions are required to combine their resources to handle the situation.

This means the crimes of petty theft, grand theft, burglary, or grand theft using a firearm, would be considered looting under PC 463 if these crimes were committed during a declared state of emergency.

Aside from natural disasters, it’s also possible to face looting charges if done during a health crisis, such as a global pandemic, or in a man-made situation, like rioting.

Similar Offenses

The following are associated offenses that can be charged in addition to PC 463 looting. Facing more than one of these charges without solid legal representation can have an effect on whether you face the maximum or minimum penalties. 

California Penal Code 404.6 - Inciting a riot;

You are guilty if you urge other people to cause a disturbance or to commit destructive, forceful, or violent acts while there is already an immediate danger of a riot breaking out. It is also a crime to urge people to start or participate in a riot.

California Penal Code 404 and 405 - Participating in a riot;

It is a crime to participate in a riot by disturbing the public peace, threatening violence (with the immediate power to execute said violence), or committing acts of violence.

California Penal Code 459 - Burglary;

This law prohibits entering any building, dwelling, room, or locked automobile with the intent to commit a theft or any other type of felony.

California Penal Code 484 - Petty Theft;

This law prohibits stealing any property that is valued at or under nine-hundred-fifty dollars.

California Penal Code 487 - Grand Theft;

This crime is committed when you steal property that is worth more than nine-hundred-fifty dollars.

California Penal Code 594 - Vandalism;

This crime is committed when you damage, deface or destroy someone else’s personal or real property.

California Penal Code 602 - Trespassing;

This is the crime of taking, damaging, or injuring someone else’s property and is also referred to as malicious mischief.

The Prosecution

To get a conviction for PC 463, looting, the prosecution must first prove certain facts of the case. These factors are also referred to as elements of the crime, which are:

  • The defendant committed an act of looting by petty theft, grand theft (with or without firearms), or burglary, and
  • They committed these acts during a declared state of emergency.

Depending on the circumstances of the case, the prosecution will work quickly to get a conviction. Taking advantage of the chaos that follows a major natural disaster or a riot is considered abhorrent behavior and the prosecution will take every case seriously. If weapons or violence was involved in the case, the prosecution could seek felony penalties.

Contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as you are able to. They can help fight the allegations, possibly getting the charges reduced and helping you avoid any maximum penalties.

Who Can Be Charged

Let’s take a look at the following examples to understand who can be charged with PC 463, looting.

Example 1:

While a state of emergency is declared due to a major hurricane and law enforcement is more concerned with public safety, Mike decides to take advantage of the situation. He breaks into the Plaza Bonita mall and steals clothing and electronics.

Mike is guilty of PC 463 looting by burglary for breaking and entering the mall to commit theft. He could face felony penalties depending on the extent of the damage done to the mall and the stores he unlawfully entered within the mall, and if the items he stole were valued at over one thousand dollars.

Example 2:

A riot breaks out in Luke’s neighborhood when a police officer kills someone. He notices windows of local businesses were broken and people were looting. He does not participate in the riot but chooses to walk into the broken window of a gun store and steals a Glock 19 and a Smith and Wesson SD9. He took multiple boxes of ammo and claimed the handguns were for his protection.  

Regardless of his rationale for committing theft, Luke would be guilty of PC 463 looting by grand theft involving firearms and would face felony penalties.

Example 3:

Maria was short on toilet paper and cleaning products. She could not go shopping due to a shelter-in-place order. When an earthquake hits, a state of emergency is declared. While everyone is distracted, she decides to enter the local Wal-Mart and fill a duffle bag with everything she needs.

Maria gets caught and is charged with PC 463 looting by petty theft.

Example 4:

George stays in his home during a massive wildfire, in which the governor declared a state of emergency. When all his neighbors leave their homes for safety, he waits until nighttime and decides to break into their homes. He steals various items from electronics to tools.

George could face charges for PC 463 looting by burglary for breaking into his neighbors’ homes and stealing valuable items while a state of emergency is in place due to uncontrollable wildfires.

If you or someone you care about can relate to any of these situations, get the help of a criminal defense attorney as soon as you can. Facing these offenses alone can be overwhelming and make it harder for you to fight the offense. Act as quickly as possible to retain an effective defense lawyer who can aggressively challenge the charges so you can maintain control of your future and your freedom.

Legal Defense

With the help of a trusted legal defense team, you can expect a solid fight for your rights. Here are just a few of the legal defenses that have been used to dispute charges for PC 463, looting.

Lack of Criminal Intent

The act of looting implies one has the intent to steal something. For instance, looting by burglary requires you had the intent to commit a crime once you entered the structure. If the defendant lacked criminal intent, you should not be guilty of PC 463.

Example:

Valerie was walking home when a riot broke out due to police misconduct. She got scared and ran into the nearest grocery store. She hid the backroom while looters were damaging and stealing things. She posted live updates to her Twitter page while everything was happening. When law enforcement arrived, they arrested the looters, and Valerie finally exited the back room. She was automatically arrested and charged with PC 463.

Fortunately, her defense lawyer was able to prove she did not have criminal intent to steal anything. Using Valerie’s social media posts, they determined she only entered the store to protect herself from the melee. The store’s security cameras were also able to show her actions and corroborate her story. PC 463 looting charges were dropped.

False Arrest - Mistaken Identity

Unfortunately, when mass violence breaks out or when natural disasters hit law enforcement can be spread thin. They tend to act quickly and with zero-tolerance concerning looting and property damage. This could mean a proper investigation is not always forthcoming. Being charged with looting, for instance, could simply be a result of mistaken identity and being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Example:

Andre was participating in a peaceful protest when counter-protesters arrived and escalated things. The opposition began throwing bricks into business and smashing car windows. Chaos ensued as violent clashes broke out. Fearing for his life, he avoided the skirmishes and began running home. When law enforcement arrived, they began arresting and zip-tying everyone they could, regardless of whether they were involved in the violence or not. A police officer saw Andre running past stores with looters in them and decided to pursue. He claimed Andre looked like the other looters and was fleeing the scene of the crime. The officer assumed Andre had participated in the looting as well.

Luckily, Andre’s defense lawyer was able to get the charges dropped. Not only did he lack any physical evidence but eyewitness accounts from other protestors had also supported Andre’s side. The officer completely ignored the fact that Andre was not carrying any stolen items, nor was he in possession of weapons or tools typically used to break through storefronts. The officer ignored other looters who were still in the stores only to pursue someone who did not enter any structure. Andre is not guilty of PC 463, looting.

Penalties for PC 463, Looting

The punishments for looting depend on the specific circumstances of the case and the defendant’s criminal background history.

If convicted of PC 463, looting by burglary as a misdemeanor;

Summary (misdemeanor) probation,

A potential county jail sentence of one year,

As much as one thousand dollars in fines, and/or

Approximately 240 hours of community service.

As a felony;

Formal (felony) probation,

16 months, 2 or 3 years in county jail,

Fines as high as ten thousand dollars, and/or

Up to 240 hours of community service.

No matter what you are convicted of, the minimum penalty for looting by burglary, even if you are granted probation, is 180 days, or six months in county jail. Only the judge can decide whether this minimum jail term can be reduced, depending on the defendant’s individual circumstances and the particulars of the case.

If convicted of PC 463, looting by petty theft, you face a misdemeanor;

Informal (summary) probation,

As long as six months in county jail,

Fines of up to one thousand dollars, and/or

As much as 80 hours of community service.

Even if probation is granted, the defendant is required to spend at least 90 days in the county jail. The judge has the discretion to change this if they deem it does not serve the best interest of public justice.

If convicted of PC 463, looting by grand theft, you face;

Misdemeanor;

Summary (informal) probation,

A potential county jail sentence of one year,

As much as one thousand dollars in fines, and/or

Approximately 160 hours of community service.

As a felony;

Formal (felony) probation,

16 months, 2 or 3 years in county jail,

Fines as high as ten thousand dollars, and/or

Up to 160 hours of community service.

If convicted of PC 463, looting involving a firearm, you face;

Felony;

Felony probation,

16 months, 2 or 3 years in state prison,

Fines as high as ten thousand dollars, and/or

As much as 160 hours of community service.

Once again, regardless of whether probation was granted for either looting by grand theft or looting by grand theft involving firearms, the defendant is required to serve at least 180 days in county jail, unless the judge decides otherwise.

Penalties for Similar Offenses

Keep in mind, it is entirely possible to face enhanced penalties for PC 463, looting if the defendant also committed closely related offenses. If this is the case, do not put off finding a criminal defense lawyer who can represent you to fight these charges.

California Penal Code 404.6 - Inciting a riot;

Misdemeanor;

As long as one year in county jail, and

Fines of up to one-thousand dollars.

The judge also has the discretion to grant misdemeanor probation in lieu of jail time.

California Penal Code 404 and 405 - Participating in a riot;

Misdemeanor;

Summary (misdemeanor) probation,

A possible one-year county jail sentence, and/or

Fines of up to one thousand dollars.

California Penal Code 459 - Burglary;

1st-degree Burglary:

Felony;

Formal (felony) probation,

2, 4, or 6 years in state prison, and/or

Fines as high as ten thousand dollars.

2nd-degree Burglary;

Misdemeanor;

Summary (informal) probation,

As long as one year in county jail, and/or

Up to one thousand dollars in fines.

Felony;

Formal probation,

16 months, 2, or 3 years in county jail, and/or

As much as ten thousand dollars in fines.

California Penal Code 484 - Petty Theft;

Misdemeanor;

A possible six-months county jail sentence, and/or

Fines as high as one thousand dollars.

California Penal Code 487 - Grand Theft;

Misdemeanor;

A potential one-year county jail sentence, and/or

As much as five-thousand dollars in fines.

Felony;

16 months, 2 or 3 years in county jail.

California Penal Code 594 - Vandalism;

If the damage is less than four-hundred dollars, you face a misdemeanor;

A potential one-year county jail sentence,

Informal (summary) probation, and/or

As much as one thousand dollars in fines.

If the damage is valued at over four-hundred dollars, you face;

Misdemeanor;

A possible one-year county jail sentence,

Summary (misdemeanor) probation, and/or

A potential fine of up to ten thousand dollars.

Felony;

Formal probation with up to one year in county jail,

16 months, 2 or 3 years in county jail,

Fines as high as ten thousand dollars, and/or

Felony probation.

California Penal Code 602 - Trespassing;

Misdemeanor;

Informal (summary) probation,

A potential six-month county jail sentence, and/or

Fines of up to one thousand dollars.

Let Us Help

If you or someone you care about is facing charges for PC 463, looting, do not try and fight it alone. Get the help of an effective criminal defense attorney as soon as you can.

Located in San Diego, Orange County, or Los Angeles? Contact the Law Offices of Anna R. Yum. As a former prosecutor, Attorney Yum understands how quickly the prosecution acts to get a conviction for this offense or similar offenses. Now, as a top-rated, highly recommended defense lawyer, Attorney Yum knows what it takes to fight on your behalf to achieve the best possible outcome.

For more information on PC 463, looting, or any of the related offenses, contact us at 619-233-4433. You can also use our online contact form. Call us today to schedule your no-obligation, free consultation.

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