Swiping packages off porches or doorsteps is a common crime of opportunity, especially during the holidays. An article published by USA Today reports that one in two Americans know someone who has had a package stolen after it was delivered and one in three Americans say they have had a package stolen.
For some, the lure of unattended Christmas loot is just too great. These so-called “porch pirates” won’t just end up on Santa’s naughty list, however. This type of behavior could land them in jail facing serious consequences. An experienced theft attorney who has handled package theft cases could further explain the specific penalties that may arise.
In Fort Worth and throughout Texas, depending on the circumstances, it’s possible to face state or federal charges for package theft.
Under state late law, specifically Texas Penal Code 31.03, if you take property that does not belong to you, without consent or permission of the owner and without other legal justification, and have no intention of giving it back, it constitutes theft. Taking a package without permission would qualify as theft under this statute, however, a new Texas law recently amended Chapter 31 of the Texas Penal Code to create the new criminal offense of mail theft.
On September 1, 2019, the penalty for stealing anything that is considered mail increased. Under House Bill 37, porch pirates can now be charged with a felony for stealing mail or packages, including a letter, post card, package, bag or sealed article from a person’s premises without the consent of the owner. The punishment can range from a Class A misdemeanor all the way up to a first-degree felony depending on the number of addresses mail is taken from. For example, anyone caught stealing from more than 50 addresses can be charged with a first-degree felony, punishable by up to life in prison. Stealing from less than 10 addresses is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail.
Charges may also be upgraded if there is proof that the offender intended to obtain someone else’s identifying information or steal from the address of a disabled or elderly person.
A person who commits package theft could also be guilty of a federal crime. Under Section 1708 of the United States Code, mail theft is defined as taking any piece of mail that is not your own for any reason. This could include a letter, a package delivered by a mail carrier, or a package that is left in a designated delivery area. Following a USPS truck and then taking packages off someone’s porch after delivery, for example, or taking a package out of a stranger’s mailbox without permission could be a violation of federal law. A conviction could lead to a fine and confinement for up to five years in federal prison.
Because package theft is a growing issue, law enforcement and homeowners have become more vigilant, which has resulted in more people getting caught and arrested. Many people who commit package theft are captured by home surveillance cameras or the popular Ring Video Doorbell. Some police departments are now turning to technology for help and using bait packages with GPS trackers inside to find and arrest package thieves. Homeowners also are relying on package guard products that notify them when they receive a package and sets off an alarm if anyone unauthorized tries to take it.
Besides post office boxes or work addresses, you can also have packages delivered to an Amazon Locker. You can also have packages delivered to a UPS store.
If you have a package that you don’t want left on your front porch, contact the seller or shipper and require a signature for delivery.
Have you been accused of stealing a package in state or federal court? Whether you were wrongly accused or you made a mistake and are hoping you can live a better life in the future, we are here to help. Call us at (817) 203-2220. You can also contact us online for help.
For more information, please reference Texas Penal Code 31.03