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Criminal Defense From A Former Prosecutor

California lawmakers consider bill aimed at package thieves

In March, California lawmakers began considering a bill that would beef up penalties for thieves who steal packages from porches and doorsteps. The bill would expand the state's penal code to specifically forbid burglaries from porches, doorsteps and other areas outside the home known as "curtilages."

Under current California law, punishments for porch thefts are tied to the value of the property stolen. In comparison, felony burglary charges can be filed against anyone who enters someone's home with the intent to steal, regardless of the value of the items stolen or whether anything was stolen at all. Entering the "curtilages" of a property, such as a porch or doorstep, isn't considered burglary because the thief doesn't actually cross the threshold of the home. This has made it difficult to prosecute people who target these outside areas for packages shipped from Amazon and other online retailers.

Assembly Bill 1210 would allow authorities to charge porch thieves with misdemeanors or felonies depending on the defendant's criminal history. In addition, porch theft would count as a strike against California's three-strikes law. According to a March report by U.S. Packaging & Wrapping, California has the third-highest rate of porch theft in the United States. The report found that San Francisco and Oakland report the most porch thefts in the state. Texas is the only other state in the nation considering laws to strengthen penalties for porch theft.

Individuals charged with theft and property crimes could turn to a criminal defense attorney for assistance. After reviewing the case, an attorney may recommend a defense strategy to fight the charges, which could lead to the charges being dismissed. However, in some cases, the attorney may recommend negotiating a plea bargain that reduces the charges and penalties.

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