Sending and receiving items through regular mail might sound like an ancient practice to some, but it remains relevant even when things like email and text messaging exist. In fact, the mail is still used to send important documents and letters to those who can’t be easily reached through phone or email.
But the mail is also vulnerable to theft. Thieves can steal physical letters and abuse any sensitive information they find inside. This is why Texas considers mail theft a grave offense and hands out harsh penalties for anyone convicted.
You might think that stealing mail as a prank isn’t a crime, but the state can still charge you for such a reckless stunt.
Texas law on mail theft
According to state law, it’s an offense for anyone to steal mail from another person’s mailbox or premises intentionally. It’s also a crime to steal mail with the intent to prevent the addressee from receiving a specific letter.
If you’re convicted of mail theft, the penalties you face depend on the number of people you’ve stolen mail from:
- Fewer than 10 addressees: A conviction leads to a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a maximum fine of $4,000 and up to a year in jail.
- At least 10 addressees, but fewer than 30: This can lead to a state jail felony conviction. This carries a maximum fine of $10,000 and a confinement period of up to two years.
- 30 or more addressees: This can lead to a third-degree felony, which is punishable by a maximum fine of $10,000 and up to 10 years in prison.
However, the penalties further increase if you stole mail with the intent to commit identity theft:
- Fewer than 10 addressees: A state jail felony, with a maximum fine of $10,000 and up to two years in prison
- At least 10 addressees, but fewer than 20: A felony of the third degree, with a maximum fine of $10,000 and up to 10 years in prison
- At least 20 addressees, but fewer than 50: A felony of the second degree, with a maximum fine of $10,000 and a prison sentence of up to 20 years
- 30 or more addressees: A felony of the first degree that can lead to a life sentence or a prison term not exceeding 99 years and a maximum $10,000 fine
On top of all of these, the punishments enhance to the next criminal grade if at the time of the offense you were aware that one of the addressees was a disabled or elderly individual. For instance, if you would face a first-degree felony for stealing mail from 30 people to use for identity theft, but one of them was elderly, you’ll instead face a capital felony.
Mail theft is a major crime that carries some of the most severe punishments. If you face charges, know that your penalties can quickly add up if you can’t defend your case in court.