Georgia House approves bill that would turn porch piracy into a felony

    Porch piracy is nothing new, but supporters of a state law to impose tougher penalties say it would reflect society’s increased reliance on delivery drivers and mail carriers, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. John McCosh/Georgia Recorder

    State lawmakers want to make it a felony to swipe a package from someone’s porch.

    Porch piracy is nothing new, but proponents argue that the tougher penalty would reflect society’s increased reliance on delivery drivers and mail carriers, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. They also say the change would bring the consequences under state law in line with the federal level.

    Under the bill, a defendant would serve between one to five years in prison. The measure, which also covers mail theft, passed Wednesday with a 101-to-67 vote that fell mostly along party lines. It now moves to the Senate.

    “What if you need that medication and you don’t get it because somebody took it off your porch?” said Rep. Chuck Efstration, a Dacula Republican. “You know, these are the kinds of consequences that we really have to think about.

    “This is not an ivory tower discussion. This is real-world impact to Georgians who are going to lose their medication, their goods off their porch,” he said.

    Rep. Ed Setzler, an Acworth Republican, said the tougher penalties are needed because the theft hurts more than just the package’s recipient.

    “What (the bill) seeks to address is one act, which may seem small to some, which becomes a crime against a producer, a shipper, a customer on the back end and also the employer who depends on their employee to be able to stay at home, work from home and be productive from home and receive deliveries at home in the context of this pandemic or other similar circumstances,” Setzler said.

    Critics, though, say the GOP bill is a knee-jerk reaction that would hit thieves with penalties that are out of proportion with the crime.

    “There are so many ways that we can respond to social problems. So many ways,” said Rep. Josh McLaurin, a Sandy Springs Democrat.

    “Some of them take longer than others. Investing in health care, investing in education, giving people opportunities so they don’t feel like they have to take a dice roll and grab a random package off a porch and see what’s in it and maybe they sell it and feed their family that week.”

    Jill Nolin
    Jill Nolin has spent nearly 15 years reporting on state and local government in four states, focusing on policy and political stories and tracking public spending. She has spent the last five years chasing stories in the halls of Georgia’s Gold Dome, earning recognition for her work showing the impact of rising opioid addiction on the state’s rural communities. She is a graduate of Troy University.