A California district attorney allegedly issued guidance to law enforcement in her county that required them to consider if looters needed their loot before the police charged them with a crime.
Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton’s guidance reportedly also included consideration of whether “the target business open or closed” at the time of the looting and “what was the manner and means” by which the looter gained entry to the target business.
As Jennifer Van Laar of RedState wrote, here are Becton’s charging guidelines for looting:
Theft Offenses Committed During State of Emergency (PC 463)
In order to promote consistent and equitable filing practices the follow[ing] analysis is to be applied when giving consideration to filing of PC 463 (Looting):
- Was this theft offense substantially motivated by the state of emergency, or simply a theft offense which occurred contemporaneous to the declared state of emergency?
- Factors to consider in making this determination:
- Was the target business open or closed to the public during the state of emergency? ii. What was the manner and means by which the suspect gained entry to the business? iii. What was the nature/quantity/value of the goods targeted? iv. Was the theft committed for financial gain or personal need? v. Is there an articulable reason why another statute wouldn’t adequately address the particular incident?
Van Laar also quoted from the Shouse California Law Group: “Under Penal Code 463 PC, California law defines ‘looting’ as taking advantage of a state of emergency to commit burglary, grand theft or petty theft. Looting charges can be filed as a misdemeanor or a felony and is punishable by up to 3 years in jail.”
The Shouse California Law Group provides some examples of situations that could result in looting charges in California:
After a major flood shuts down a city, two men travel to the deserted business district and break into a clothing store. Their intent is to steal all the dry merchandise as soon as they can get a car into the area.
During a riot that results from an appalling case of police misconduct, some people break the windows of an electronics store. A woman goes inside and takes several iPods.
People are evacuating a small town because of a wildfire that has caused the mayor to declare a state of emergency. Before leaving, a man stops by his local convenient store and finds that there is no one at the register. So he takes several 12-packs of beer without paying.
Becton is the same district attorney who charged a couple who painted over a message promoting Black Lives Matter on the street in front of the Wakefield Taylor Courthouse with a “hate crime,” as Djhjmedia pointed out.
BREAKING: The #Martinez couple caught on video painting over the approved #BlackLivesMatter mural on #FourthofJuly are being charged with a hate crime, according to a release from the #ContraCostaCounty District Attorney's office. pic.twitter.com/9L21byNsE1
— KCBS 106.9 FM/740 AM (@KCBSRadio) July 7, 2020
As Van Laar notes, Becton coauthored an op-ed in Politico with district attorneys Kim Foxx of Chicago, St. Louis’ Kim Gardner and two other district attorneys, in which they wrote, “Our criminal legal system was constructed to control Black people and people of color. Its injustices are not new but are deeply rooted in our country’s shameful history of slavery and legacy of racial violence. The system is acting exactly as it was intended to, and that is the problem. We should know: We’re Black, we’re female, and we’re prosecutors. We work as the gatekeepers in this flawed system. And we have some ideas for how to fix it.”
Kim Foxx’s office infamously dropped charges against actor and singer Jussie Smollett for allegedly perpetrated a hoax hate crime against himself.
The concept that looting can sometimes be justified has also been promulgated elsewhere. PJMedia pointed out that author Vicky Osterweil, who wrote “In Defense Of Looting,” argued in the book that “looting is a powerful tool to bring about real, lasting change in society.”