The Consequences of Looting

What Are the Penalties of Looting and Rioting?

As Americans, we pride ourselves on our ability to stand up for what we believe in. Protests have been a longstanding vehicle for displaying dissatisfaction with social issues, governmental decisions, and more, which we equip in hopes of starting productive conversations that can ignite change.

While Americans maintain the right to assemble and protest for their rights and lives, certain popular protest measures are susceptible to legal consequences. What’s more, these consequences can be even harsher when committed during a scenario where officials declare a state of emergency.


The term “looting” has been thrown around frequently in recent news stories and conversations. It’s important to acknowledge the specificity of the term looting to understand its distinction from standard theft. Though both involving stealing, looting is unique in the sense that its thievery occurs amidst riots or political, social, or military disasters. Essentially, it is stealing at a time when law enforcement is unable to effectively respond to the situation.

Texas took action to harshen penalties for looters in areas already catastrophe-stricken in late 2019. Under the new law, assaults and lootings in declared states of disaster are susceptible to stricter penalties. Eligible disasters include those announced by the president, governor, county judge, and mayor.

If theft occurs during these emergencies under the parameters of a Class A misdemeanor, the minimum jail time increases to six months.

Specific additional crimes committed during a disaster will be addressed as one category higher during the time of trial, allowing Class B misdemeanors to become prosecutable as Class A, for example. These crimes include:

  • Arson
  • Assault
  • Burglary
  • Criminal Trespass
  • Robbery


Texas currently considers participation in a riot a misdemeanor. It’s punishable by up to six months in jail. While this charge stands to address those who participate in gatherings of at least seven with intent to damage property or cause potential harm, Texas can elevate charges in cases causing more danger. Looters have even seen felony charges in Texas for assault for allegedly throwing a bottle of water at a police officer.

Legal Help When You Need it

The Law Office of Rene A. Flores PLLC implores the youth of today to stand up for what they believe in and work towards making our country a safer place for all Americans. Peaceful protests are a powerful tool of democracy and can help the nation advance towards productive change. When demonstrations become unruly, however, it’s important to be cognizant of the penalties you could face while fraying from the mission of the protest.

If you have been arrested for looting or rioting, contact The Law Office of Rene A. Flores PLLC. Our lawyer can provide you with the guidance necessary to work towards avoiding these charges and their penalties.
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