On Wednesday, a bill that would increase the penalties on people who steal packages from the porch or entryway of someones home was voted down by the California State Senate Public Safety Committee.
The bill, SB 979, which was introduced by Senator Brian Jones‘ (R-Santee) in February.
According to the bill, it would prohibit a person from entering the curtilage of a residential dwelling, as defined, with the intent to commit theft of a package shipped through the mail or delivered by a public or private carrier. The bill would make a violation of that prohibition punishable as a misdemeanor by imprisonment in a county jail for a term not exceeding one year. For a 3rd or subsequent violation within a 36-month period, the bill would make the crime punishable as a misdemeanor by imprisonment in a county jail for a term not exceeding one year or as a felony by imprisonment in a county jail for 16 months, or 2 or 3 years. By creating a new crime, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
“Some of the most vulnerable in our community, such as seniors and disabled individuals, rely on home delivery of goods for survival. During the COVID-19 crisis, vulnerable individuals unable to leave their home rely on package delivery for essential items such as medication and food,” stated Senator Jones. “Unfortunately, an increase in package delivery has also led to an increase in package theft from outside Californians’ homes. This ‘porch piracy’ epidemic is serious and needs to be addressed by our criminal justice system. Current law is weak on the punishment of this type of theft but this bill would have increased the consequences significantly,” Jones notes.
Current law provides that a theft of a package from the porch or entryway of someone’s home is merely a misdemeanor, no matter how many repeat convictions the perpetrator may have on their record. SB 979 would have allowed prosecutors to charge the perpetrator (“porch pirate”) with a misdemeanor or with a felony in the third or subsequent conviction during a 36-month period.
While the majority-party members of the Senate Public Safety Committee acknowledged the problem of increased porch piracy and the need to address it in California, they never-the-less voted down SB 979.
“Some of these so-called ‘porch pirates’ are habitual offenders who keep dodging real punishment for their actions because thefts from outside a home are treated differently under current law than burglaries committed inside a home,” continued Jones. “California often leads the nation in policy, and this needs to be one of those times. While the committee agreed porch piracy is a problem in the state, unfortunately, the committee did not agree that these offenders deserve a punishment that’s fit for their crime.”
SB 979 was defeated in Senate Public Safety on a 2-5 party line vote with Republican Senators John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) and Mike Morrell (R-Rancho Cucamonga) supporting the measure, while Democrat Senators Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), and Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) voted against it.
Meanwhile, in February, Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley) introduced a bill that would strengthen the punishment for package thieves.
Under AB 1210, which was introduced on February 21, says anyone with the intent to commit theft of a package shipped through the mail or delivered by a public or private carrier would be punishable as a misdemeanor by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or as a felony by imprisonment in a county jail for 16 months, or 2 or 3 years.
Low’s bill has not yet been voted on.