A bill that would reclassify ‘porch pirate’ thefts in California as mail thefts and punishable by fines and up to a year in prison was heavily amended on Thursday, only days after passing unanimously in the Senate Public Safety Committee.
Senate Bill 358, authored by Senator Brian Jones (R-Santee), would specifically expand state mail theft laws to apply to all package deliverers now, not only the United States Postal Service (USPS). While stealing a package would remain a misdemeanor under the new amended bill, it would be punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Steeper federal mail theft charges would not apply to any package thefts under the new law, except by those delivered by the USPS.
The original language of SB 358 centered it around unlawfully going on someone elses property to steal a package and making ‘porch piracy’ a possible felony charge following two other similar charges in a 36-month period. If tried as a misdemeanor, the charge could have been one year in prison. If it was a felony charge, it would have been up to three years.
In a statement to the California Globe, Senator Jones said that the bill was amended due to the original language not having enough votes to pass and that changing the definition to ‘mail theft’ would be the best option for passage.
“In discussions with the Committee Chair and other committee members, it was clear that the original version of SB 358 did not have the votes for passage,” said Senator Jones to the Globe on Friday. “We looked for a possible compromise and expanding the definition of ‘mail theft’ to also include packages and letters delivered by private carriers, was seen as the best option. The new language does provide for additional penalties for people who steal packages and is a step in the right direction in combating serial porch pirates. While it might be a small step, it’s better than no step at all.”
Senator Jones noted Friday that more deterrents are still needed against “porch pirates” due to more Californians relying on deliveries for food and medicine, as well 30% of all package thefts nationwide occurring in California. The drastic rise in the number of porch pirate incidents since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020 also added to the need for greater punishments.
“Since the COVID-19 crisis began, home delivery of packages has dramatically increased across the nation. Seniors and disabled Californians in particular rely on package delivery for fundamental items such as medication and food,” stated Senator Brian W. Jones on Friday. “Unfortunately, package theft has become its own epidemic, with 30% of package thefts nationwide occurring here in California. Greater punishments and deterrents against ‘porch piracy’ are needed. Senate Bill 358 will allow judges the option to treat theft of packages delivered by private carriers just like mail delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.”
SB 358 has enjoyed bipartisan support, as evidenced by the unanimous Public Safety Committee vote earlier this week, as well as backing from the California State Sheriff’s Association and the Peace Officers Research Association of California. No known opposition has been formed against the bill as of Friday.
SB 358 is due to go to the Senate Appropriations Committee for a hearing in the coming weeks.