HOUSTON – Fourteen suspected looters who were arrested in the past 48 hours will face harsher punishments under a Texas law that hands out stiffer penalties during a crisis, officials said Tuesday.
“People displaced or harmed in this storm are not going to be easy prey,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said.
Ogg’s office issued a news release warning looters that they’ll face more time for crimes committed in Harris County.
“Anyone who tries to take advantage of this storm to break into homes or businesses should know that they are going to feel the full weight of the law,” she said. “Offenders will be processed around the clock without delay.”
Suspected looters have been arrested by the Houston Police Department, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and various Harris County constables.
Here is how penalties will increase:
A second-degree felony will be punished as a first-degree felony.
A state jail felony is punished as a third-degree felony.
A third-degree felony is punished as a second-degree felony.
A Class A misdemeanor is punished by a minimum of 180 days in jail. A Class B misdemeanor is punished as a Class A misdemeanor.
Under Texas law, the punishment increases for crimes such as assault, robbery, burglary and theft.
Burglarizing a home would normally bring a penalty of two to 20 years in prison, but now brings five years to life, Ogg’s office said.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has declared a disaster in Harris County.