Texas is cracking down on porch pirates, or people who steal mail and other packages from people’s porches. The law covers both packages that mail delivery or standard carrier services drop off at people’s houses and boxes that people have left for pickup. Governor Greg Abbott recently signed House Bill 37 into law, which goes into effect on September 1, 2019.
Mail theft is a federal crime, but until the passage of this law, it was not subject to prosecution under state law. Previously, the only sanction for stealing others’ mail was a citation for a Class C misdemeanor, which could result in a maximum $500 fine. Class C misdemeanors cannot result in arrests or jail time.
Now, the offense can range from a Class A misdemeanor to a third-degree felony, depending on the circumstances. For individuals who steal less than ten pieces of mail, the charge is a Class A misdemeanor. The maximum penalties for a Class A misdemeanor conviction include up to one year of incarceration and a fine of up to $4,000.
For individuals who steal between ten and 30 pieces of mail from different addresses, the charge is a state jail felony. A conviction for a state jail felony can result in a jail sentence ranging from 180 days to two years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. For more than 30 pieces of mail from different addresses, the charge is a third-degree felony, which can result in a prison sentence of two to ten years and a fine of up to $10,000.
Individuals can face enhanced charges if there is evidence that they were targeting the victim for identity theft, or if they were targeted elderly or disabled victims.
Critics of the new law say that the law does not consider the value of the mail or packages stolen. In some cases, the law could result in disproportionate penalties. Taking a package containing a less expensive item theoretically could result in harsher penalties than for those stealing a more expensive bicycle from someone’s driveway.
If you or a family member is facing any criminal charges, we may be able to help. As experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys, we have the knowledge needed to help you navigate through often-complex criminal proceedings. Call us today at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment with one of our criminal defense lawyers and learn how we can assist you.