When it comes to major hurricanes and where they make landfall, Louisiana ranks third in the nation, coming behind only Florida and Texas in the number of severe storms. When these storms strike, thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of businesses and homes are temporarily vacant as residents and owners wait for the danger to pass. During these times, it is not unusual to hear news stories about people who remained in the region during the storm who are looting unattended businesses and homes.
While some looting instances are merely crimes of opportunity, other looters are simply in search of basic necessities so they can survive the initial aftermath of the hurricane. Looting is a crime in Louisiana, but having an experienced criminal defense attorney helps you tell your story to prosecutors to reduce or avoid some of the consequences this charge carries.
What Louisiana’s Laws Say About Hurricane Looting
LA Rev Stat § 14:62.5 (2019) defines looting as the intentional entry by a person without authorization of personal residences, businesses, vehicles, or watercraft when normal security of the premises is not present due to hurricanes, floods, fires, or other catastrophic events.
An example of the state’s looting laws at work occurred in the days after Hurricane Ida made landfall. Nola.com reported that in an eight-day period after landfall, 235 calls were made to the New Orleans Police Department about businesses in the area being burglarized, along with 180 reports of burglaries involving people’s homes, which is more than three times the amount of alleged burglaries and residential break-ins that occurred in the entire month before the disaster struck.
While some of the residents and business owners expressed frustration over the commonality of post-hurricane looting and the impact of the practice on their businesses, others were more understanding of the plight of many looters, stating that the problem doesn’t begin with the looters, but with those who keep life-saving medicines and basic supplies locked away during times when those items are needed most.
The Potential Penalties for Hurricane Looting
While there are logical explanations and difficult stories at the crux of many looting incidents, it is important to understand that looting is a crime in Louisiana that carries harsh penalties. The potential consequences for being charged with looting include a fine of $5,000 to $10,000. Those who are convicted could also face 3-15 years of imprisonment.
Beyond incarceration and fines, those who serve their time for a hurricane looting conviction commonly face long-lasting impacts resulting from the appearance of the conviction on their background check. Being convicted of a crime involving any type of theft will reduce an individual’s employment options, make it difficult for them to obtain housing, and may even prevent them from going to college as many state and private institutions prohibit those who have been convicted of certain types of crimes from attending.
Are You Facing Hurricane Looting Charges? Contact John D. & Eric G. Johnson Law Firm for Assistance
The aftermath of a hurricane is a dangerous and chaotic time in which there is most often flooding, power outages, limited law enforcement or emergency resources, and limited access to the supplies that those who did not evacuate need to survive. Many people are not aware of what constitutes as hurricane looting, along with the potential consequences they may face if they’re charged with the crime. The legal team at John D. & Eric G. Johnson Law Firm has the reputation of being problem-solvers who can handle a large variety of cases.
We go to bat for our clients, fighting to reduce prison sentences, fines, and other consequences associated with the charge while ensuring that your civil rights are respected during the investigation and criminal court process. We have a track record of success both in the courtroom and outside of it. Let an experienced criminal defense lawyer help you understand your options after you have been charged with hurricane looting. For your free consultation, contact us online or by calling (318) 377-1555.