Each year, the United States Postal Service (USPS) delivers over 100 billion pieces of mail to over 100 million addresses.
With shopping done increasingly online, there has been a steady increase of mail theft across the country.
In Ohio alone, there were over 2,000 reported mail theft losses in 2017. Mail theft penalties vary according to the severity of the crime.
Because the USPS is a federal agency, stealing mail is a federal crime. Many states have also enacted laws that specifically prohibit mail theft. Even in those states that do not have specific mail theft laws in place, mail theft can be prosecuted under state theft and identity theft laws.
Federal law prohibits taking any piece of mail that does not belong to you for any reason. The term “mail” includes letters, postal cards, packages, bags, and other such articles sent via USPS. This law applies to mail at the post office, in or outside of mailboxes, and to mail left unattended in other locations. Federal mail theft is a felony offense.
A federal mail theft conviction can also have consequences under Ohio state laws. The charges associated with stealing mail depend on what was stolen. If the stolen mail included personal identifying information, mail theft may be charged as felony identity theft. Examples of personal identifying information are:
- Social security numbers,
- Dates of birth,
- Bank account information,
- Credit card information,
- Telephone numbers.
- Tax identification numbers,
- Driver license numbers,
- Passport information,
- School or employee identification numbers, and
- Birth or death certificate information.
In addition to identity theft, Ohio state law prohibits mail theft under the general theft statutes. The type of theft again depends on what was stolen, particularly the value of what was stolen.
If the stolen items are worth less than $1,000, the charge is a misdemeanor of the first degree. If the value of stolen mail is $1,000 to $7,500 or the stolen property was a credit card, check, or other qualifying item, the theft is charged as a felony of the fifth degree.
Mail theft punishment A federal mail theft conviction is punishable by up to five years in federal prison and fines of up to $250,000, in addition to potential restitution payments.
Mail theft penalties under Ohio state law depend on the specific crime charged. If mail theft is charged as identity theft under Ohio state law, the potential penalty is as many as 11 years in prison, depending on the class of persons whose identity was stolen.
The potential penalty for a first degree misdemeanor theft is up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. For a fifth degree theft felony, the potential penalty is prison time of six to twelve months and a fine of up to $2,500.
Federal mail theft is a serious crime. If you were charged with federal mail theft, you should consult with an experienced attorney as soon as possible to determine whether you have any available defenses. Possible defenses to federal mail theft include:
- You didn’t steal the mail;
- You didn’t know that the mail in your possession was stolen; or
- The evidence against you was obtained illegally.
In addition to defenses specific to federal mail theft, you can defend against state law theft charges by proving that you lacked the intent to steal the items in question.
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The Gounaris family has been serving the legal needs of Dayton and Miami Valley communities for fifty years. The attorneys at Gounaris Abboud, LPA, bring years of experience and significant expertise to each and every case. We ensure that our representation reflects the most recent innovations in the legal profession.
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