Mail Theft Lawsuit

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 What Is the Legal Definition of Theft?

In its simplest terms, theft is the taking of another’s property with the intent to permanently deprive them of their property. The law, however, divides theft into many different offenses and levels that may result in a range of penalties.

Theft may also be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the facts of the case. The level of punishment a defendant may face depends on the severity of the charges against them.

For example, stealing a small item of low value from a retail store will likely result in lesser penalties than stealing another individual’s car. When a perpetrator uses a weapon or force during a theft, this will be classified as a more serious crime.

It is important to note that many states use the term larceny instead of the term theft.

What Is Mail Theft?

Mail theft occurs when an individual steals mail that is not their own. The United States Postal Service (USPS) handles around 668 million pieces of mail each day.

The majority of mail pieces arrive intact but some are stolen before they can be delivered. U.S. Postal Inspectors investigate matl thefts.

Inspectors arrest thousands of suspects each year for mail theft. In addition, certain areas of the country, such as California and Texas, are prone to large volume mail theft.

Where Do Thieves Steal Mail From?

In many cases, thieves steal mail in order to obtain:

  • Checks;
  • Money orders;
  • Credit card applications; and
  • Bank statements.

Thieves may steal mail from:

  • Postal trucks;
  • Collection boxes;
  • Apartment mailbox panels;
  • Co-op mailing racks; and
  • Neighborhood delivery and collection box units.

How Can I Protect Myself from Mail Theft?

The U.S. Postal service recommends making it more difficult for thieves to steal mail by doing the following:

  • Never sending cash in the mail;
  • Instead, use checks and money orders;
  • Removing mail from the mailbox after delivery or asking a neighbor to pick up the mail when an individual is away;
  • Requesting that the post office hold mail while an individual is away for a long period of time;
  • Contacting the issuing agency immediately if an individual does not receive an expected check or other valuable mail;
  • Immediately notifying the post office and others of a change of address;
  • Depositing mail in a mail slot at the post office or handing it to the mailman; and
  • Starting a neighborhood watch program.

If an individual witnesses mail theft, they should immediately contact law enforcement as well as their nearest Postal Inspector. In addition, if they believe their mail has been stolen, they should immediately report it to the local postmaster or Postal Inspector.

It is important to note that an individual will be required to fill out a formal complaint.

What Is Identity Theft?

Identity theft is the use of pieces of information about another individual without their knowledge or permission in order to commit fraud or other crimes. To commit identity theft, thieves will use an individual’s:

  • Name;
  • Identification;
  • Address;
  • Social Security number;
  • Credit card; or
  • Other personal information.

Identity theft is a federal crime. In addition, numerous states have passed laws outlawing identity theft. An individual may save their credit card information on their web browser or other digital location. It would be identity theft if a hacker accessed and used that information to make purchases.

Identity theft may also occur if a thief steals mail from an individual’s mailbox that contains their personal information. This commonly occurs when thieves steal pre-approved credit card applications from mailboxes.

How Are Identities Stolen?

There are numerous ways in which criminals can steal identities, including:

  • Robbery: Stealing a wallet or purse in order to to obtain:
    • driver’s licenses;
    • credit cards; and
    • other personal information;
  • Mail theft: Stealing certain pieces of mail, such as:
    • bank statements;
    • credit card statements; or
    • pre-approved new credit card offers;
  • Dumpster diving: Rummaging through trash to find documents containing identification information and account numbers;
  • Computer fraud: Hacking into computer systems that contain identification information; and
  • Phishing: Scamming information from victims by posing as a legitimate business person.

What Are the Penalties for Identity Theft?

In certain states, identity theft is a state crime as well as a federal crime. If a defendant is convicted of identity theft, they may face several penalties, including:

  • Imprisonment;
  • Fines;
  • Probation;
  • Restitution;
  • Conversion;
  • Punishment for any related crimes, for example, mail or credit card fraud; and
  • Forfeiture of any personal property that was used to commit or gain from the crime.

What Is the Penalty for Mail Theft Charge?

The federal penalty for mail theft charges can be found at18 U.S. Code § 1708. Any individual who steals mail may face criminal fines and incarceration for no more than 5 years.

The penalties for other types of theft crimes will depend on numerous factors, including:

  • The severity of the crime;
  • The perpetrator’s criminal history;
  • Whether a weapon was used; and
  • The value of the property.

It is important to note that a repeat offender will typically receive a harsher penalty and less leniency at sentencing than if it was their first offense. However, if an individual steals property over a certain amount, they may be charged with a felony as their first offense.

The potential charges will depend on the state and the amount of property stolen. To illustrate, the following punishments apply in Texas:

  • Class C misdemeanor theft: This is for items or services valued at less than $50;
    • A defendant faces a fine less than $500 and no jail time.
  • Class B misdemeanor theft: This is for items or services from $50 to $500 or a driver’s license or similar ID card;
    • A defendant faces 180 days in jail, criminal fines of up to $2,000, or both;
  • Class A misdemeanor theft: This applies to items or services ranging from $500 to $1,500;
    • A defendant faces up to 1 year in jail, criminal fines of up to $4,000, or both;
  • Felony theft, or state jail felony theft: This is for items or services from $1,500 to $20,000 as well as firearms or livestock;
    • A defendant faces 180 days to 2 years in a state jail and a criminal fine of up to $10,000; and
  • Felony 3rd Degree theft: This applies to items or services valued at $20,000 to $100,000;
    • A defendant faces 2 to 10 years incarceration and a criminal fine of up to $10,000.

What About Mailbox Vandalism?

Mailboxes in rural areas are more vulnerable to vandalism than city residential mailboxes. This is due to the fact that rural mailboxes are typically isolated, located on a public road, and may not be visible to the homeowner from their house.

A mailbox is considered to be federal property and is under federal jurisdiction. It is a criminal offense to vandalize a mailbox.

If an individual vandalizes a mailbox, they may face up to $250,000 in fines, be sentenced to imprisonment for up to 3 years, or a combination of both.

Do I Need a Lawyer Experienced with Mail Theft?

If you have been charged with mail theft, it is important to consult with a criminal lawyer. Your lawyer can advise you of which laws apply in your case and the penalties you may face.

Felony charges may have consequences in addition to simply being on your criminal record. They may cause you to lose employment, the right to custody or visitation with your children, as well as other rights.

If you are having issues with mail theft, it is important to report the issue to the local authorities. It is also important for you to follow the tips outlined above to prevent mail theft.

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