Copper Theft

New California Copper Theft Law

By Michael W. Kahn | ECT Staff Writer Published: January 5th, 2012

The new year brought a new copper theft law to California.

A tougher copper theft law took effect in California, Jan. 1. (Photo By: Patrick Pleul/dpa/picture-alliance/Newscom)A tougher copper theft law took effect in California, Jan. 1. (Photo By: Patrick Pleul/dpa/picture-alliance/Newscom)

A tougher copper theft law took effect in California, Jan. 1. (Photo By: Patrick Pleul/dpa/picture-alliance/Newscom)

Stealing copper worth more than $950 is now categorized as grand theft in the Golden State. Conviction on felony charges can bring up to three years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. If the suspect is charged with a misdemeanor, there can be a fine of up to $2,500 and one year behind bars.

“Due to the increasing value of metal, more and more thieves are stealing copper wiring from construction sites, digging up underground telecommunication wires and cutting wires at utility stations,” said Assemblywoman Wilmer Amina Carter, D-Rialto.

Carter wrote the bill, which received bipartisan support and was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in September.

The California statewide association applauded the new law.

“Copper theft disrupts the core of our business by interrupting service and driving up costs,” said Jessica Nelson, general manager of Golden State Power Cooperative. “We hope this law will deter potential copper thieves so that California electric cooperatives can continue to provide reliable and affordable power to our members.”

The new law also requires those convicted to compensate their victims for damages and economic losses.

“The resulting damages and related hardships are much more costly than the actual value of the wire,” Carter said.

Carter’s district is in San Bernardino County, where authorities said metal theft accounts for one-third of all property crimes. An August copper theft caused a blackout for 25,000 utility customers.

“This very important legislation will help to deter these thefts by increasing the penalty,” said Lt. Barbara Ferguson, legislative liaison for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.


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