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Smash-and-Grabs in CA

In recent years, smash-and-grab crimes have become a prevalent issue in various parts of the United States. These crimes involve groups of individuals coordinating to break into a store simultaneously, overwhelm staff, and steal as much merchandise as possible before fleeing the scene. Notably, these incidents have been particularly common in California, with Nordstrom department stores being a frequent target.

What is a Smash-and-Grab?

A “smash and grab” crime is a type of burglary that typically involves breaking into a business, grabbing as many valuable items as possible in a short time frame, and then quickly leaving the scene. These burglaries are often characterized by their speed and violence, as well as the use of overwhelming numbers to overpower any resistance.

The Nordstrom Heists

Recently, a Nordstrom department store in Topanga, California, was ransacked by a "mob of criminals" who stole more than $300,000 worth of products. This incident was the third such robbery for a California Nordstrom in less than two years.

In another instance, a similar robbery took place at the Yves Saint Laurent store in Glendale, where approximately $300,000 worth of property was stolen.

Legal Consequences

Under California law, smash-and-grab crimes can fall under several different categories, depending on the specifics of the crime. These could include burglary, robbery, grand theft, or organized retail theft.

Burglary, as per Penal Code 459 PC, is entering a structure with the intent to commit a felony or any theft once inside. The penalties for burglary can vary greatly depending on whether it is charged as first-degree (residential) burglary or second-degree (commercial) burglary. The latter is typically applicable in smash-and-grab cases, and it is generally charged as a misdemeanor with potential penalties of up to one year in county jail.

Robbery, defined under Penal Code 211 PC, involves taking personal property from someone else's person or immediate presence, against their will, through the use of force or fear. Robbery is always a felony in California, with penalties including imprisonment for two, three, or five years.

Grand theft, according to Penal Code 487 PC, involves stealing property worth over $950. It can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, with penalties ranging from up to one year in county jail to three years in state prison.

Lastly, organized retail theft, defined under Penal Code 490.4 PC, involves acting in concert with one or more persons to steal merchandise from one or more merchant's premises with the intent to sell, exchange, or return the merchandise for value. This crime is a wobbler, meaning it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Penalties can range from up to one year in county jail to 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in jail.

Smash-and-grab crimes are serious offenses with significant legal consequences. While law enforcement agencies work tirelessly to prevent these crimes and bring those responsible to justice, it is also crucial for businesses and communities to take proactive measures to safeguard against such incidents.

If you are facing criminal charges, contact Corrigan Welbourn Stokke, APLC.