Published January 18, 2019 by Rebecca Wade
The explosion of online shopping in recent years has led to a new criminal trend: porch pirating. A package gets delivered on a resident’s doorstep, but before it’s intended recipient picks it up, the package get’s snatched by a thief. Criminal defense attorney Rebecca Wade explains that while the law in Virginia hasn’t quite caught up to this new practice, residents are taking matters into their own hands.
“We see now with technology, people are shopping more and more online and less and less in brick-and-mortar stores,” says Wade. “People are getting significantly more packages delivered to their homes. It’s an easy temptation for someone walking by to try and grab an unattended package.”
Wade explains that if someone steals a package off a porch, they can be charged with grand larceny if the value of the stolen item(s) is over $500. If the value of the item(s) is under $500, they can be charged with petty larceny misdemeanor. “It’s not a situation where the legislature has come in and tried to address the problem. There isn’t a statutory provision in Virginia that specifically deals with this issue which has become a big problem. Now, that doesn’t mean you won’t find yourself in front of a judge who’s getting sick of hearing about these cases and wants to sentence it more harshly.”
While the law has not yet stepped up to combat this criminal activity, technology has started to. “You see these doorbell camera devices, people are installing cameras on their porches to monitor what comes and goes. The police are able to use that footage to investigate and pursue those offenses.” But Wade says it’s more than just doorbell cameras that are thwarting porch pirates. “Social media is the new wanted poster. Rather than some news anchor saying ‘police are looking for this man’ and posting the picture on the evening news — now, people are posting videos on social media and they get shared over and over and over again. This is an example of technology combating a new criminal offense when the legislature has not stepped in to try to address it.”