Proposed state Senate bill could make repeated porch piracy a felony

Local News

(KTXL) – A California Republican senator wants the law to be able to come down harder on porch pirates, especially since people are staying home and could be relying on packages for necessities. 

“Ordering their food, ordering their medications, other things that they need to survive, to live,” said Sen. Brian Jones, R-El Cajon. “And so, we need to protect them.” 

Senate Bill 358 would give district attorneys the power to prosecute a suspect’s third package theft within three years as a felony subject to prison time. 

“The prosecution and law enforcement, their hands are tied in that it doesn’t matter how many times somebody steals a package, it’s still only a misdemeanor,” Jones said. “And in California right now, a misdemeanor is usually a citation. People aren’t showing up for their court dates or not paying the misdemeanors, and they just keep on stealing from people’s porches.”

If all this sounds familiar, a similar bill died in committee last year as the COVID-19 crisis was ramping up. Lawmakers who killed the bill decided it was a bad time to increase the prison population with porch pirates. 

“But this year, it’s a new committee chairman, new makeup, new members on the committee of public safety, which we are pretty sure is the committee it’ll get referred to,” Jones added. 

In a letter opposing the bill, the American Civil Liberties Union expressed concern it could be used in a discriminatory manner. 

“We fear that the bill could be used as a pretext for arresting people against whom law enforcement or property owners are explicitly or implicitly biased,” said the ACLU letter in part. 

Jones emphasizes the felony prosecutions for a third porch pirate offense will not be automatic. The bill leaves that up to DAs. 

“So we’re hoping to provide a solution for Californians to protect their homes and the packages that they’re ordering online,” Jones said. 

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