Looting vs. Burglary: Understanding the Legal Difference
You may have seen the word “looting” in the news lately. Looting is a type of theft that occurs during a time of public catastrophe or unrest, such as natural disasters, riots, civil disorder, or war. Some states, like California, have special laws for looting, but others consider the crime as general theft or burglary.
What Is Theft?
The term, “theft,” refers to any crime in which a person intentionally takes the personal property of another without permission or consent.
Is Looting a Crime?
In the State of Idaho, looting is considered a crime. Looting is the theft of goods usually in the time of distress in the community including severe weather events and riots. Because looting usually occurs while both property owners and law enforcement are distracted or incapacitated, it is usually classified as burglary. Looting can also be tried as petty or grand theft, depending on the circumstances and what is stolen.
Types of Theft
Theft is usually broken down into other categories. “Petty theft,” for example, is stealing property with a low value (i.e. less than $500) and constitutes a misdemeanor, while “grand theft” is stealing larger amounts and constitutes a felony.
Robbery, burglary, and embezzlement all fall under theft, as well:
- Robbery occurs when someone takes something from someone else by force (or using the threat of force)
- Burglary occurs when someone enters a structure or dwelling with the intent to commit a crime within it (including but not limited to theft)
- Embezzlement refers to stealing from one’s employer or another institution
Because looting usually occurs while both property owners and law enforcement are distracted or incapacitated, it usually falls under burglary. Looting can also be tried as petty or grand theft, depending on the circumstances and what is stolen.
What Are the Consequences for Theft?
In Idaho, grand theft is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and at least one (1) and up to 20 years of imprisonment. Petty, or petit theft, as it’s called in Idaho, is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to one (1) year in jail.
These consequences are laid out in Title 18, Chapter 24 of Idaho Statutes.
The punishment for commercial burglary is a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to 6 months of jail time. Other instances of burglary could lead to one (1) to 10 years of imprisonment in state prison.
Idaho also allows home and business owners to defend themselves using deadly force, so sometimes, the consequences of theft and burglary fall outside of the justice system.
Get Legal Help Today
The punishments for looting may be decided on a case-by-case basis, and after instances of looting, many homeowners and business owners may be wondering what constitutes self-defense.