Millions of letters are delivered to people across the country by the United States Postal Service. Important documents, checks, bank statements and credit cards are just a few things that hold the utmost level of importance for the address. Unfortunately, these items hold a level of importance for others who may decide to claim the mail as their own.
If they do and get caught, they can face charges of mail theft. Being charged with this type of crime requires help from a reputable lawyer.
What is Mail Theft?
Mail theft is generally known as the misuse and misplacement of someone else’s mail that is delivered by the USPS. An example of this is purposely taking mail that does not belong to you out of another person’s mailbox.
A conviction of mail theft is likely when an individual:
• Takes mail from any authorized place that stores mail such as the post office mailbox or letter carrier
• Uses deception or fraud to obtain mail from these places
• Remove contents from a mail package, which can be mail bags, postcards and packages
• Hide or destroy mail
• Buy or receive mail knowing it was illegally obtained
Stolen mail can come from any type of carrier, including FedEx or UPS.
In addition, mail theft is closely tied to other crimes that involve making false representations or statements just to receive a benefit that was meant for someone else.
Targets include government checks or credit card applications, as well as official packages that contain sensitive personal information to use in fraudulent financial transactions. This latter description could also lead to being investigated for identity theft.
The destruction or altering of mail that belongs to someone else is also considered mail theft.
Penalties for Committing Mail Theft
Stealing mail is a violation of U.S. Code Section 1708. Since the USPS is a federal entity, mail theft is a federal offense. Being convicted of any federal crime, including mail theft, can lead to a significant federal prison sentence and monetary fines. In addition, you may also face state charges under state mail theft laws.
You could receive a misdemeanor charge for mail theft or a felony charge if authorities think the facts of the crime was excessive. Federal criminal charges for mail theft use specific fraud statutes, which gives federal courts jurisdiction over the cases. This is typical with a majority of fraud cases involving U.S. mail.
Under New York state law, certain U.S. mail theft crimes are prosecuted as identity theft. A base charge of Identity Theft in the Third Degree applies to anyone who intentionally takes the identity of another person, presenting themselves as that person to obtain services, property or money. This is a Class A misdemeanor with a one year prison sentence and/or up to a $1,000 fine.
Punishment for Identity Theft in the Second Degree is a $5,000 fine and up to four years in prison. This is a Class E felony. When a person intentionally takes another person’s identity and obtains more than $2,000 in property, credit, services or money, they can be charged with Identity Theft in the First Degree. This charge comes with a $5,000 fine and up to seven years in prison.
Defense for Mail Theft Charges
There are several defenses that might help you beat a mail theft charge. For instance, you and your lawyer may decide that saying you forgot to take the person’s mail to the post office. If you simply have someone, like a former tenant’s, mail in your possession, you may not be guilty of mail theft.
The criminal act occurs if you open it with the intent of doing something malicious with it. Additionally, the prosecution must prove that stealing the mail for some type of monetary gain was your intention in order for you to be convicted for mail theft.
How Mail Theft Lawyers Can Help
A mail theft lawyer can meet with you to evaluate your case. This is a time for you to explain the details so he or she can prepare the best defense. If you contact Raiser & Kenniff, PC, you are guaranteed a lawyer who will aggressively fight for your freedom. Do not stress about going to prison; contact us today so we can begin preparing a defense for an acquittal or dismissal of your case.