District Attorney Jill Ravitch today issued a warning to anyone targeting those affected by the recent flooding in Sonoma County, “California law protects people impacted by a state of emergency. Looting is theft, which is always against the law. However, during a time of emergency additional legal protections exist against price gouging on gas, food, housing, and other essential supplies. I encourage anyone who has been the victim of price gouging, or who has information regarding potential price gouging, to immediately file a complaint by contacting local law enforcement or my office. Be advised that any looting or price gouging related to this week’s flooding will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors issued a local emergency Tues. in the midst of powerful winter storms which have caused significant flooding and forced the evacuation of thousands of residents from the Russian River area.
California law generally prohibits charging a price that exceeds, by more than 10 percent, the price of an item before a state or local declaration of emergency. This law applies to those who sell food, emergency supplies, medical supplies, building materials and gasoline. The law also applies to repair or reconstruction services, emergency cleanup services, transportation, freight and storage services, hotel accommodations and rental housing. Limited exceptions to this prohibition exist if, for example, the price of labor, goods, or materials has increased for the seller.
Violators of the price gouging statute are subject to criminal prosecution that can result in one year imprisonment in county jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Violators are also subject to civil enforcement actions including civil penalties of up to $5,000 per violation, injunctive relief and mandatory restitution.
Please report any price gouging to local law enforcement, or to the District Attorney’s Office via website at http://sonomacounty.ca.gov/District-Attorney/ or by calling (707) 565-2311.