Swiping packages off porches or doorsteps is a common crime of opportunity, especially during the holidays. An estimated 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.
Over the years, law enforcement has stepped up their effort to catch so-called “porch pirates” and Texas lawmakers have stiffened the penalties in an effort to deter package theft. These days, taking packages off porches can land you behind bars and leave you a convicted felon. If you or a loved one has been accused of package theft, it’s important to contact an experienced theft attorney who has handled package theft cases.
What Constitutes Package Theft in Texas?
It’s possible to face state or federal charges for retail package theft. Under state law, specifically Texas Penal Code 31.20, a person commits package theft, or mail theft, if he or she intentionally takes mail from another person’s mailbox or premises without the consent of the addressee and with the intent to deprive that addressee of the mail. This is actually a relatively new criminal offense in Texas. In the past, package theft was prosecuted under Texas Penal Code 31.03, which states that 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 qualified as theft under this statute.
What is the Punishment for Package Theft in Texas?
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, postcard, 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 to a third-degree felony depending on the number of addresses from which mail is taken. For example, anyone caught stealing from more than 30 addresses can be charged with a third-degree felony, punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison. Stealing from less than 10 addresses is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail.
Punishment for Theft of Packages
|1-9 addressees||Class A Misdemeanor|
|10-29 addressees||State Jail Felony|
|Over 30 addressees||Third Degree Felony|
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.
What Constitutes Package Theft Under Federal Law?
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 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.
Tips for Avoiding Package Thefts
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.
Have Packages Delivered to Another Location
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.
Require a Signature for Delivery
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.
What Should You Do if Your Package is Stolen?
Contact the Seller
First, contact the seller or shipper to see if the package was insured. If the package was insured, file a claim.
Contact the Carrier
Even if the shipper did not purchase insurance, most private carriers offer $100 of free coverage for ground and express services.
Contact the Police
If you have proof that a package was stolen, contact the police at their non-emergency number. Be sure to retain any footage you may have from a surveillance camera. If you don’t have a security camera, ask your neighbors if they have any cameras that might have captured traffic on the street.
Contact an Attorney to Discuss Package Theft in Fort Worth
Have you been accused of stealing a package? We can help you navigate this difficult time. Our team of experienced theft attorneys are former prosecutors with a record of success defending all types of theft cases. We will work to mitigate the consequences and help you achieve a favorable outcome. Call us at (817) 203-2220.