Postal workers bring us all letters and junk mail. They can also deliver mail that contains personal information and financial documents that should only be seen by the intended recipient. For this reason, stealing the mail in California can be prosecuted under California Penal Code Section 530.5(e): Mail Theft.
You can find out more about the specific definition of mail theft with this article and the Simmrin Law Group. Focus on:
- Federal Charges for Mail Theft
- The Penalties for a Mail Theft Conviction
- Options for Legal Defenses to Mail Theft Charges
Mail Theft: The Legal Definition
California uses PC 530.5(e) for the prosecution of acts of mail theft. This legal code specifically refers to 18 U.S. Code 1708 for the definition of mail theft. 18 U.S. Code 1708 is the federal code for mail theft. According to this code, individuals can be prosecuted for mail theft for stealing mail from a(n):
- Authorized Depository for Mail
- Post Office
- Letter Carrier
Individuals may steal mail directly, or they can use deception or fraud to steal the mail. Additionally, mail theft charges may be brought against individuals for:
- Removing the Contents of Stolen Mail
- Destroying or Hiding Stolen Mail
- Buying or Otherwise Unlawfully Acquiring Stolen Mail
Note that, for the purpose of mail theft charges, mail can include:
- Mail Bags
Mail Theft: Other Similar Charges
There are many different charges directly related to acts of theft in California. Individuals could face charges like:
- California Penal Code Section 484(a) & 488: Petty Theft
- California Penal Code Section 487: Grand Theft
- California Penal Code Section 487(d)(1): Grand Theft Auto
- California Penal Code Section 487j: Grand Theft Of Copper Materials
There are also additional criminal charges tied to the mail. Individuals in California can be charged with mail fraud in some situations. Fraudulent schemes that somehow involve the mail system can be treated as mail fraud, leading to federal charges.
Mail Theft: Examples of the Act
Man A is watching the house of his neighbor – Man B – while Man B is on vacation. Man B asked Man A to pick up his mail every day. Man A follows this instruction, taking Man B’s mail from the mailbox every day. However, he shouldn’t be charged with mail theft because he was following Man B’s instructions.
Man C recently broke up with his girlfriend and he’s angry. He decides to take her mail every day as a way to get revenge. He generally opens the mail and shreds the contents. He could face charges for mail theft in California.
Mail Theft: The Penalties for a Conviction
Mail theft charges can be prosecuted in either state or federal court. Generally, federal charges apply if a mail theft violation crosses state lines or an international border. Additionally, any cases of mail theft that involve the government can be prosecuted in federal court.
The state and federal court system hand down different penalties following a conviction for mail theft. Federal charges are likely to result in more serious penalties. Let’s go over the penalties for both court systems:
State Penalties for Mail Theft:
- Fines of Up to $1,000
- Jail Time of Up to One Year
Federal Penalties for Mail Theft:
- Fines of Up to $250,000
- Prison Time of Up to Five Years
Mail Theft: The Legal Defenses
As you can see, a mail theft conviction can lead to serious consequences. Fortunately, you can get help handling these accusations by contacting a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer today. Your lawyer can review all the facts of your case. Based on your situation, a legal professional could defend you by working to show that:
You Accidentally Took Another Person’s Mail
Individuals must act intentionally to steal another person’s mail to face mail theft charges. If you were accidentally given someone else’s mail, or grabbed your neighbor’s mail by mistake, you should not automatically be convicted under PC 530.5(e).
You Were Asked to Pick Up Someone Else’s Mail
Sometimes, people go on vacation and ask a friend or neighbor to pick up their mail while they’re away. If you had the other individual’s consent to take their mail and keep it until they returned, you could avoid a conviction for mail theft in California.
Speak with a Lawyer about Mail Theft Charges in California
It’s important that you get professional help on your side quickly if you are charged under California Penal Code Section 530.5(e): Mail Theft. Get legal advice today with a FREE case evaluation from the Simmrin Law Group.
Reach our criminal defense lawyers in Los Angeles easily by completing our online contact form or calling (310) 896-2723.