A new bill moving quickly through the Florida legislature would intensify penalties for retail theft and “porch piracy,” making it a third-degree felony to steal packages worth over $40.
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the crackdown at a Tuesday news conference in Cape Coral, describing it as a measure to avoid a “culture of lawlessness” in progressive states like California and New York.
“You have Amazon will deliver it, they drop this stuff off, and sometimes it’s gone,” DeSantis said Tuesday. “And you have the ability with cameras now on people’s doorsteps, this is easily solvable, but you’ve got to have adequate penalties to be able to do that.”
The bill, HB 549, was added to the Florida House Judiciary Committee agenda on Monday. Its companion bill in the senate is SB 824. In addition to penalties for porch piracy, the legislation also targets retail thefts, adding new penalties for looting and “smash and grab” crimes and lengthening the amount of time in which someone can be prosecuted as a repeat offender from a month to a year.
“If you go into a pharmacy, and the toothpaste is behind lock and key — it’s almost like Fort Knox, some of these places, just for normal items — you know you’ve got some problems,” DeSantis said.
Also in attendance at Tuesday’s news conference were Attorney General Ashley Moody, FDLE Commissioner Mark Glass, State Rep. Bob Rommel, the bill’s sponsor in the House, and John Gavin of Gavins Ace Hardware.
In 2023, Florida was ranked as the state with the lowest number of Google searches related to package thefts, according to a report by Lombardo Living. It also has some of the lowest larceny rates. State law already makes it a third-degree felony to steal a package worth over $100 from someone’s porch.
But Moody said Tuesday that the goal of the legislation is to “keep Florida Florida.”
“You know, all these other states are going to have slogans like ‘make California Florida,’ or ‘make New York Florida,’” she said. “We have to keep Florida Florida, continue to be the leader. And this is a great example of how we do that.”
Some Democratic lawmakers have criticized the bill, calling the new penalties too harsh.
“For a first-time offender who doesn’t necessarily know the value of the item that they’re stealing, to give that person the scar of a felony offense … is incredibly problematic,” Rep. Michael Gottlieb, D-Davie, a criminal defense attorney, told the Tallahassee Democrat.
The new bill also makes it a third-degree felony to commit coordinated “smash-and-grab” crimes, in which a group of people storm a store, loot it, and storm out, a phenomenon that has become popular on social media.
Meanwhile, the legislation includes a provision so that prosecutors add up thefts over the course of a year, rather than a month, to determine whether the suspect will be charged with a felony.
If someone’s total thefts exceed $750 in value, they will now be charged with a third-degree felony. The same is true if someone commits three or more thefts of more than 10 items at two or more locations over the course of a year.