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Looting: Authorities say enhanced penalties are in effect for shoplifting, theft

Updated 1:58 p.m., March 26–
Sentinel staff report– The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office issued a statement Wednesday advising that “greatly enhanced” criminal penalties are now in effect under California’s looting law. The law goes into effect whenever a state of emergency has been declared.

California’s looting law, described in section 463 of the State Penal Code, makes violations “punishable criminally by incarceration in county jail [or] prison for up to three years and a fine of up to $10,000, with a mandatory minimum sentence of six months in county jail,” the District Attorney’s Office said in Wednesday’s statement to media.

The looting statute applies to anyone who enters a building or structure “with the intent to steal any property, no matter its value,” authorities said. The law also mandates that sentences be served in state prison, if the item stolen is a firearm.

Citrus Heights Police Chief Ron Lawrence told The Sentinel on Wednesday that the city has not seen any looting or any significant changes in crime over the past week, but warned would-be criminals to take note of enhanced penalties in effect.

“While we have not experienced [looting] in Citrus Heights, the Citrus Heights Police Department has increased our patrols and activity around non-essential businesses that are closed as a result of the COVID-19,” said Lawrence in an email. He said anyone arrested for commercial burglary, grand theft, petty theft, or grand theft of a firearm during the current state of emergency will be charged with looting, “in addition to the underlying criminal charge.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom officially declared a state of emergency on March 4 in response to the spread of COVID-19 in California. The declaration also included provisions against price gouging, allowing out-of-state health care workers to assist at local hospitals, and other temporary provisions.

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