Is Taking Someone Else's Mail Considered Mail Fraud?

Taking someone else's mail is a crime. But it's not mail fraud. Under federal law, mail fraud occurs when a person uses the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) or a commercial mail carrier to further a fraud scheme. For example, if someone was trying to steal people's identifying information and they mailed fake job announcements to others requesting names, addresses, or other data, they're committing mail fraud.

Removing mail is a separate crime referred to as mail theft. Generally, the offense occurs when someone takes a letter, postcard, package, box, or other items addressed to another person. It can be prosecuted as a federal crime, state crime, or both, and a conviction carries harsh penalties.

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Federal Mail Theft Law

The federal government prohibits anyone from taking another person's mail. The statute that concerns this conduct is 18 U.S.C. § 1708.

Under the law, it's illegal to:

  • Take mail from any mail receptacle, including a residential mailbox or mail carrier bag;
  • Take mail left for collection; or
  • Receive stolen mail

Minnesota's Mail Theft Law

Similar to the federal government, Minnesota has a law on the books that makes it illegal for someone to take other people's mail.

As with the federal law, the state law provides that it's a crime to:

  • Remove mail from a mail receptacle;
  • Take mail from a mail carrier;
  • Open another person's mail;
  • Take mail left for collection; or
  • Receive mail known to be stolen

Penalty for Stealing Mail

Mail theft is a serious crime; although it's considered a lesser offense than mail fraud. A mail fraud conviction can result in a prison term of up to 30 years. In contrast, under federal law, mail theft is penalized by up to 5 years of imprisonment. A conviction under Minnesota's law can result in a prison term of up to 3 years.

If a person takes someone else's mail, they might not face charges only for mail theft.

Depending on the items taken and subsequent actions, the individual might also be accused of:

  • Identity fraud,
  • Credit card or debit card fraud, and/or
  • Other fraud-related offenses

If you've been charged with mail theft or any other state or federal crime, you need serious defense on your side. At Brockton D. Hunter P.A., our Minneapolis attorneys have extensive experience and are passionate about helping the accused.

To discuss your case during a free consultation, call us at (612) 979-1112 or contact us online today.