Can Stealing Packages Lead to Federal Charges

If you order an item from Amazon and it is sent to you by USPS (United States Parcel Service) it is a Federal offense if the person who stole the item is caught.  If the package is sent to you by FedEx or UPS, which are private carriers, and the item is stolen from your front porch it would not be a Federal offense but is considered theft/larceny by state law in Texas. It is something taken from your property without your expressed permission.  If the person is caught the degree of punishment is dependent on the value of the items in the package.  Items stolen from a US mail box carry stiff Federal penalty. 

Not only does stealing a package impact the consumer who hasn’t received his or her goods, vendors are experiencing losses when its customers demand a replacement product because theirs was never delivered and presumed to be stolen. Having video of the suspect taking the package without permission and depriving you of the purchased goods is good evidence that it was stolen. Amazon is relatively good at replacing stolen item but other companies may not if the carrier has proof of delivery such as a photograph showing the package was delivered to your stated address.  The theft of packages is far from a victimless crime and State Prosecutors are going after those who are stealing packages. The possible punishment for such offenses can be jail time, stiff fines, and restitution.

Not only can package theft be prosecuted by state officials, but federal authorities can also prosecute those who steal US mail. The inside of your US mail box is Federal territory. Under the Federal penal code, “Theft or Receipt of Stolen Mail Matter” is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison, in addition to a fine. Additional larceny charges based on the value of stole goods are also possible. If stolen mail contains more sensitive items, such as identifying documents or credit cards, additional crimes and penalties may result.

Some police departments have also begun programs where they use “bait” packages to discourage package theft.  Some of the “bait” package contains items along with a hidden GPS locator. The baited package is left on a volunteer’s porch. The police monitor the package movement and if taken by thieves’ police get an alert and officers track the package.  Amazon and Walmart are using smart technology which allows package delivery in your car’s trunk or even to the inside of your own home for those who opt for this special service, if available, in your area.  Finally, some citizens have taken to shipping all packages to their places of employment, where they or another trusted co-worker can accept the package. This option, however, may not be available to all who work.

The best deterrent to this type of criminal activity is the fear of being caught followed by jail time.  Law Enforcement has to make every effort to identify these criminals, arrest, and file charges.  The District Attorney then needs to prosecute these thieves to the full extent of the law.  Delivery carriers also have to do their part by placing packages in areas not easily visible from the street.  Carriers also need to do a better job reading and following delivery instructions.

Finally, as a society we must not tolerate those individuals who have lost respect for the property that belongs to others.  Any person who breaks the law needs to suffer the consequences imposed by the law.

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