Is Looting any Different than Larceny, Burglary, or Theft?

In Mississippi, it is.

Mississippi is one of about seven states right now that make looting a distinct crime from other forms of property crime, like larceny, burglary, shoplifting, and other types of theft crimes.  Perhaps more than any other state, Mississippi has been hit extremely hard by natural disasters, and the elements of the crime of looting are designed to address the special problems created by natural disasters, riots, mobs, etc.

Section 97-17-65 of the Mississippi Code makes it a crime to “knowingly without authority of law or of the owner enters any home or dwelling, or upon any premises of another, or enters any commercial, mercantile, business or industrial building, plant or establishment, in which a normal security of property is not present by virtue of a hurricane, fire or vis major of any kind or by virtue of a riot, mob, or other human agency and obtains or exerts control over or injures or removes property of the owner.”

What makes looting different?

Look at the part that says “a normal security of property is not present.”  That is what makes looting different.  If a natural disaster (a hurricane, for instance) makes it impossible to keep property secure, then any person who obtains, exerts control over, injures, or removes the property of someone else can be charged with looting.  The Attorney General has also made it clear that the crime of looting can be committed without any property actually being taken.  In plain terms, looting occurs when someone takes advantage of a situation and causes harm to someone when they are vulnerable due to circumstances beyond their control.

What is the punishment for looting in Mississippi?

Because of this, the punishment for looting is more severe than ordinary theft crimes.  Looting is a felony offense in Mississippi, and can be punished by imprisonment in the penitentiary for a period not to exceed fifteen (15) years or by a fine not to exceed ten thousand dollars ($10,000.00), or both such fine and imprisonment.  Considering the fact that the punishment for petit larceny (regular stealing) of property up to $500.00 is up to six (6) months in jail, you can see how serious looting is taken in our state.

If you have been charged with looting, larceny, burglary, or any other type of property crime, call The Guthrie Firm for a free consultation.  Clarence has extensive experience defending these types of crimes, and will be glad to discuss your case with you.  We are here to help.