Recent Laws Have Increased Penalties—and Your Chances of Being Charged
Stealing mail is a federal crime but, until recently, the Texas penal code failed to define the offense and its punishments. That meant local police had to hand any accusations over to federal officers, who were often too busy to investigate. With increased complaints about package theft, legislators created statewide penalties for anyone caught stealing from another person’s mailbox or porch.
What Are the New Charges?
Prior to the enactment of the new legislation, anyone who stole mail (including packages) could only be prosecuted under Texas’ theft law or by federal law enforcement. Now, mail theft can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances surrounding the act.
- Class A Misdemeanor: Charged for mail theft from fewer than 10 locations
- State Jail Felony: Charged for mail theft from between 10 and 29 locations
- 3rd Degree Felony: Charged for mail theft from 30 or more locations
When mail theft is committed with the intent to defraud anyone or steal the victim’s identity, the charges are much stronger:
- State Jail Felony: Charged for mail theft from fewer than 10 locations
- 3rd Degree Felony: Charged for mail theft from between 10 and 19 locations
- 2nd Degree Felony: Charged for mail theft from between 20 and 49 locations
- 1st Degree Felony: Charged for mail theft from 50 or more locations
Charges may also be increased for those who knowingly steal from the disabled and elderly.
Is It a Felony to Steal Amazon Packages?
“Porch pirates” who take mail from 10 or more locations can be charged with a felony. The law does not take into account how many packages are taken or the value of the items they contain. If the stolen mail includes sensitive personal information such as bank account or credit card numbers, the state may try to accuse you of attempting identity theft and charge you with a felony, even if you only stole from 1 person.
What Happens if I Get Caught Stealing?
Anyone convicted under Texas’ new mail theft laws stands to face serious consequences. Non-mail theft may be charged at lower levels but stealing someone’s packages will result in at least a Class A misdemeanor on your record. These are the highest-penalized misdemeanors; for anyone facing felony charges, punishments will certainly include incarceration as well as possible fines. The consequences escalate quickly for felony-level offenses.
Punishments for Mail Theft Offenses
Like other criminal violations in Texas, mail theft crimes will be sentenced according to our state’s Penal Code.
- Class A Misdemeanor: Jail time of up to 1 year and/or fine of up to $4,000
- State Jail Felony: Jail time of between 180 days and 2 years and/or fines of up to $10,000
- 3rd Degree Felony: Prison time of between 2 and 10 years and/or fines of up to $10,000
- 2nd Degree Felony: Prison time of between 2 and 20 years and/or fines of up to $10,000
- 1st Degree Felony: Prison time of at least 5 years and/or fines of up to $10,000
Are Harsh Punishments Really the Answer?
Lawmakers were so eager to answer package theft complaints that critics say they overshot the mark when determining how to punish the offenders. If you were to steal an item from someone’s lawn that cost $100 or less, you would only face petty theft charges. However, stealing a small package from that same house could land you with a Class A misdemeanor. There is a clear mismatch between the scope of theft punishments simply depending on whether the item stolen was mail or not.
The Chief of the Castle Hills Police Department said that the strength of the charge wasn’t important to him as long as it allowed officers to “make effective arrests.” This means that in their haste to punish people, law enforcement could be saddling people with higher charges than necessary. Package theft has increased across the U.S., affecting 26 million Americans in 2017, but opponents of the new law have suggested helping online shoppers secure safer delivery rather than assigning extreme criminal records to people who may have made a mistake or been down on their luck.
Need Help with Mail Theft Charges?
Our team at LaHood Norton Law Group has helped many clients improve their case outcomes. With over 70 years of combined experience and attorneys who previously served as prosecutors for the state, we have strategies to help anyone accused of a crime pursue a better outcome. A felony record can be detrimental to almost every part of your future. Make sure you hire a lawyer who can build you a strong defense.