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.
State and Federal Criminal Charges for Stealing Packages
In Texas, depending on the circumstances, it’s possible to face state or federal charges for package theft.
Package Thefts under Texas Law
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 off a stranger’s doorstep without permission would qualify as theft under this statute. Learn more about theft charges in Texas.
In Texas, punishment for theft can range from a ticket to up to life in prison. Theft is classified by the amount of property that is stolen. If the property is valued at under $100, the individual is facing a $500 fine. If the property is valued at more than $300,000, the individual is facing a first-degree felony punishable by up to life in prison.
Because individuals who commit package theft likely do not know what is inside the box, they are unwittingly exposing themselves to the full gamut of punishment. For example, stealing a smaller package that contained jewelry or expensive electronics could lead to felony theft charges. Likewise, stealing a large box containing an inexpensive item could lead to a misdemeanor charge.
Package Thefts 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 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.
Tips for Avoiding Package Thefts
Install a Surveillance Camera
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. 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 or Shipper
- 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 surveillance camera, ask your neighbors if they have any cameras that might have captured traffic on the street.
Charged with Package Theft? Contact Us
Have you been accused of stealing a package in state or federal court? Whether you were wrongly accused or you made 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:
Also published on Medium.