Kill Switch Law Decreases Smartphone Thefts


Petty theft has long been one of the most common non-violent crimes. It covers a wide range of offenses, including shoplifting. Though common knowledge is that this type of petty crime is, in large part, perpetrated by younger offenders looking for a thrill or way, presumably, to rebel, shoplifting statistics, for example, show that only one-quarter of all shoplifters are teenagers. There are roughly 27 million people who shoplift in the United States at any given moment—and more than 10 million have been caught in the past five years.

This type of theft is one that has long been a burden both to retail outlets and our police departments. Yet with the advent of cellphones and other handheld technological devices, there was a whole new type of offense: the petty theft of an electronic device. This often occurs in large cities in the middle of large crowds; on public transportation systems, or in the incident of burglary into a car or other mobile personal property.

California Kill Switch Law

Headline-grabbing incidents have been widespread regarding the vast black market that exists to profit from stolen electronic devices. In some instances, stolen phones, for example, make their way all the way back to the country of their origin and are repurposed and resold back into the United States. In order to combat this, in mid-2015 California passed a law requiring that all cell phones now sold in the state have a mandatory “kill switch,” which enables the rightful owner of the phone to have it entirely deactivated so that it cannot be refurbished and resold.

After this law was passed, the number of incidents of cell phone theft decreased dramatically in the state. The availability of such switches was already showing signs of progress, even before they were made mandatory by laws like the one in California. In 2013 there were 3.1 million smartphone thefts in the United States; in 2014, there were only 2.1. These numbers represent more than a 30 percent decline in the number of incidents.

If you or someone you know has been accused of cellphone theft or any other type of petty theft, the most important step is to seek legal counsel. Do not go through it alone. Contact an experienced Santa Clara County criminal defense attorney today.


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