Porch Pirates: What Is It and Is Stealing Packages a Felony?

With the internet came online shopping and it has changed our lives forever.

Before the internet, we had to go out to buy the things we wanted or needed at a brick and mortar store location. Think the mall or the grocery store.

That has all changed for the better in some cases and, in others, not so much.

The internet has created an online marketplace with global leaders like Amazon and eBay.

You can basically get anything via mail.

Now you can even get groceries or dining delivered to your home.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, this was, in many ways, a lifesaver. We could get that all covered toilet paper delivered to our doorstep. That, however, came with unforeseen consequences.

We began to see more and more videos on the news about porch pirates. Porch pirates would drive or walk up to a person’s porch and steal the packages of an unsuspecting victim.

We started to hear about people breaking into community mailboxes to steal checks and commit identity theft using people mail.

But is being a porch pirate a crime in Nevada and what should you do if you’ve been accused of mail theft? If you have been charged with mail theft of any kind, your best bet is to hire a lawyer to help you understand that these charges are serious and could have an adverse effect on your life.

The Defenders can help you defend your rights and navigate the complex legal system. Our experienced attorneys have a deep understanding of mail theft laws and will work tirelessly to build a strong defense for your case.

Contact our office today if you are facing mail theft charges.

What Is Considered Mail Theft In Nevada?

Mail theft in Nevada is different from mail fraud in that you are actually accused of physically stealing someone else’s mail or package. Mail fraud is using the U.S mail to commit a fraudulent act.

A person is guilty of mail theft if the person:

  1. Knowingly , willfully and with the intent to deprive, injure, damage or defraud another:
    1. Takes or destroys, hides or embezzles mail; or
    2. Obtains mail by fraud or deception.
  2. Buys, receives, conceals or possesses:
    1. Mail and knows or reasonably should know that the mail was unlawfully taken or obtained
    2. Any key suited to any lock adopted by The United States Postal Service that provides access to any mail receptacle in any neighborhood or apartment panel used for the purpose of centralized mail;
    3. A counterfeit device or key designed to provide access to a lock.
  3. Knowingly, willfully and with intent to steal any mail inside, damages, opens, tears down, takes or destroys any mail receptacle.

You can be charged with mail theft in Nevada if any of the these three actions are true:

  1. Knowingly stealing or possessing someone else’s mail
  2. Possessing a centralized mail key and not being a keyholder or an employee of the U.S Postal Service
  3. Knowingly opening or damaging a mail receptacle with the intent to steal the mail inside.

What Are The Penalties For A Conviction Of Mail Theft?

Federal mail theft is a felony and can have penalties carrying:

  • Up to 5 years in federal prison and /or
  • A fine up to $250,000

Nevada State Mail Theft is a Category D felony carrying:

  • 1 to 4 years in Nevada State Prison
  • Up to a $5000 fine
  • Restitution

The difference between Federal Mail Theft charges and state mail theft charges is that the United States Postal Service is a federal agency, specifically, 18 U.S Code 1708 outlines the illegality of stealing, taking or by fraudulent means obtaining mail from various sources such as mailboxes and post offices. So if you steal a package from someone’s porch you may be charged with state mail theft. If you are charged with stealing mail or packages from a community mailbox you may be charged with Federal mail theft.

Stealing multiple pieces of mail in a single transaction will be prosecuted as one mail theft charge and not as multiple charges for each piece of stolen mail.

If you keep a package that contains goods that you did not pay for or was not intended for you, you may face Nevada larceny charges in addition to mail theft charges.

Larceny is another form of theft and defined as stealing money or property that is valued at less than $1200 (Petit Larceny). Stealing property or money valued at $1200 or more is considered (Grand Larceny).

When It’s Not The Crime Of Mail Theft

It is not a crime to pick up or even open someone else’s mail by mistake or accident. However, once you realize that the mail was not intend for you , you should write “delivered to the wrong address” on the package and either:

  • Return it to your mail carrier
  • Put in any outgoing mailbox or
  • Deliver it to the real recipient yourself

We all have received packages that are meant for the neighbor or by mistake from the mail carrier from time to time.

You can always call the store or online shop that the package was sent from and ask them to send someone to pick up the package or ask what they suggest you do with the package.

How To Defend Mail Theft Charges

The best defense against mail theft charges in Nevada is to argue that you did not realize that the letter or package was not meant for you. We have all opened packages that were delivered to our house by mistake.

Most people open packages delivered to their address without looking since it did come to your house.

As long as you had no intent to steal someone else’s mail, then the charges won’t stick.

Another possible defense is that you are being falsely accused. Maybe you have an angry neighbor or ex-roommate that claims you are stealing their mail to get back at you for some reason.

If stolen mail was found while the police were performing search and seizure improperly then The Defenders can ask the judge to suppress the improperly obtained evidence. Without evidence, there can be no case.

There is no defense, however, against your face appearing on someone else’s Ring camera on their front porch stealing their packages.

Can A Mail Theft Conviction Be Sealed?

If you are ultimately convicted of mail theft, you can only seal the record five years after the case has been closed.

If the charges are dismissed and you are not convicted of the crime of mail theft, then the record is sealed right away.

How Can The Defenders Can Help With Mail Theft Charges

Whether you’re charged with state or federal mail theft, The Defenders can help you. We have a team of expert lawyers with many specialties including mail theft or mail fraud.

Our team of lawyers will investigate your case and determine the best course of action. We may be able to get your charges reduced or even dismissed based on the investigation done by our firm.

We will be with you every step of the way and can even negotiate a plea deal if necessary.

If you have been arrested and charged with the crime of mail theft, we can help you arrange bail and your release before you go to trial.

Our lawyer represents clients in every aspect of the criminal justice system from DUI charges, drug charges and even murder charges.

Call The Defenders today if you have been charged with a crime in Nevada, we will do a case review with you and let you know what you can expect going forward.

A conviction for mail theft can have an adverse effect on your life from finding employment to getting an apartment. You need to have the best defense.

Contact our office today if you or a loved one is facing theft charges.

The Defenders Criminal Defense Attorneys - Best of Las Vegas Gold Winner

Frequently Asked Questions

What are porch pirates?

Porch pirates are individuals who commit the crime of stealing packages that have been delivered to someone’s front porch or doorstep. This form of theft has become increasingly common with the rise of online shopping and the frequent delivery of goods straight to customers’ homes.

What is porch piracy?

Porch piracy is the act of stealing packages or mail that has been delivered to a person’s front porch or doorstep. This type of theft is often committed by “porch pirates,” who may target homes with visible packages or simply take advantage of unattended deliveries. Porch piracy can result in charges for mail theft, larceny, or other forms of theft, depending on the value and contents of the stolen items.

Can I be charged with mail theft if I accidentally opened a package that wasn’t meant for me?

No, you cannot be charged with mail theft if you accidentally open a package that was not intended for you. However, it is important to take appropriate action once you realize the mistake and return the package to the intended recipient or inform the sender of the error. Failure to do so could potentially result in theft charges if it is determined that you had intent to steal the contents of the package.

What should I do if I am accused of mail theft?

If you are accused of mail theft, it is important to seek legal representation as soon as possible. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help build a strong defense and protect your rights throughout the legal process. Do not speak to law enforcement or provide any information without first consulting with a lawyer.

What are the penalties for mail theft?

The penalties for mail theft can vary depending on the severity of the crime, any prior criminal history, and other factors. In Nevada, Petit Larceny (stealing property valued at less than $1,200) is considered a misdemeanor with penalties of up to six months in jail and fines up to $1,000. Grand Larceny (stealing property valued at $1,200 or more) is a felony with penalties of up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $15,000. Other charges may also apply depending on the circumstances of the theft. It is important to consult with a lawyer for specific information about potential penalties in your case.

Can I seal my record if I am convicted of mail theft?

If you are convicted of mail theft, you may be eligible to seal your record five years after the case has been closed. However, if you are not convicted and charges are dismissed, your record may be sealed immediately. It is important to consult with a lawyer to determine your eligibility for sealing your record and to navigate the process effectively.

How can I defend against mail theft charges?

There are several possible defenses against mail theft charges, including lack of intent, false accusation, and improper search and seizure. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help evaluate your case and determine the best defense strategy for your specific situation.

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