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Looters be warned: Texas is watching!

It's no secret that Houston and its surrounding areas are struggling to recover from massive flooding -- and the police have also made it extremely clear that looting is something they will not tolerate during this period of recovery.

In fact, any looters caught while the city attempts to restore itself (or those arrested afterward once there's been time for homeowners and store owners to return, assess the damage and review the video from their security cameras) can expect to be treated as harshly as possible under the law.

Looting is a very specific type of theft that occurs only when there's been some sort of major upset in the status quo of the area -- a hurricane could have swept through the area, fires might have moved out of the forest and into the suburbs or political unrest could cause riots in the streets that shut down normal business for days.

When thieves take advantage of the fact that the police are occupied with saving lives and restoring order and there are a lot of luxury goods sitting around, ready for taking, that's looting. (Police and laws tend to draw a difference between thieves that make off with an armful of jewelry and a couple laptops and people who break into a store just to get food or water because they're struggling to stay alive during the calamity.)

Houston police have already arrested more than a dozen looters and those convicted will face additional penalties under a state law aimed at looters. For example, a conviction for robbing someone's residence would ordinarily net the offender a minimum of two years behind bars and a maximum of 20. During this official state of emergency, the same crime would result in a minimum of five years in prison with the possibility of a life sentence.

If you're accused of looting during Houston's state of emergency, don't make the mistake of thinking that this is an ordinary theft charge. A criminal defense attorney can help you learn what your legal options are.

Source: abc13.com, "Houston police catch 14 armed robbers and looters amid flood emergency," Aug. 29, 2017

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