Mail theft is a misdemeanor under California law
You may know that taking someone else’s mail is a crime under federal law. But did you know that it is also a crime in California?
According to a criminal defense lawyer in Orange County, CA, the state of California makes it a crime to commit mail theft. If you do any of the following, you could be charged with this crime:
- Steal or take any mail from a mail box, mail depository, or from a post office or letter carrier;
- Use fraud or deception to obtain or attempt to obtain mail from any of these sources;
- Remove the contents of any stolen mail;
- Destroy or hide any stolen mail; or
Buy, receive, or unlawfully possess any stolen mail, knowing that it is stolen.
Under this law, mail includes letters, postcards, packages, and mail bags.
Mail fraud is often associated with other crimes, such as identity theft. A person may steal mail in order to get access to their personal information. For this reason, these two crimes may be charged together.
Unlike other types of theft crimes, the penalties for mail theft aren’t based on the value of what you took. Instead, mail theft is charged as a misdemeanor. It is punishable by up to 1 year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
The crime of mail theft covers a broad range of activities, but that doesn’t mean that all actions described in this law are criminal offenses. For example, if you move into a new house, you might still get mail for whoever lived there before. Typically, you throw away junk mail. But then you get a letter for the former resident and it looks both important and urgent — so you decide to open it up to make sure that it is important before you try to track down the person who lived at your home before. While you technically did remove the contents of mail that wasn’t yours, you did so without criminal intent. More importantly, you didn’t steal the mail — it came to your house by accident, because the former tenant didn’t have her mail forwarded. In this situation, you would probably not be charged with mail theft.
However, if you decide to grab mail out of someone’s mail box, that would be considered mail theft. If you then open up the mail or destroy or hide it, you could be charged with mail theft. If you do any of this in order to commit another crime, like identity theft, then you could be facing additional charges.
At the Chambers Law Firm, we represent individuals who have been charged with all types of crime, from the very serious to the relatively minor. If you have been charged with a California crime, we can help. We will stand by your side throughout the process, and work hard to protect your rights. Contact us today at 855-397-0210 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a free initial consultation with a criminal defense lawyer in Orange County, CA.