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While the country is in lockdown, many states are reporting a rise in mail theft. As more people stay at home and shop online (and wait for their stimulus checks), thieves are targeting packages and mail from the government. Porch pirates, in particular, are a common problem in San Diego and the state of California. In fact, The Mercury News reported that the Golden State is in the top 3 states for “most packages stolen from homes.”
Porch pirating is a specific type of mail theft in which offenders follow Amazon, UPS, USPS, and FedEx trucks around town to steal packages left at people’s doorsteps or on their porches. San Diego legislators are attempting to fight porch pirating by pressing for increased penalties. For now, it’s a lesser theft offense. Still, porch pirating and stealing mail can lead to significant penalties and open up a criminal record that can impact your life and future.
People steal mail for various reasons, but it’s often done in the heat of the moment. Your future depends on you fighting a mail theft charge aggressively to protect your future. If you’ve been accused of stealing mail in San Diego, don’t hold back on contacting an experienced theft defense attorney like Dod of Dod Law.
Will I Go to Jail for Stealing Mail in San Diego?
Mail theft is a misdemeanor offense in California that’s often tied to other offenses, like identity theft and fraud. Under California Penal Code Section 530.5(e), mail theft is a misdemeanor offense that may lead to the following penalties:
- Up to 1 year in jail
- A fine of up to $1,000
- Other probationary requirements may apply
Under California Proposition 47, some cases of porch pirating may be tried as misdemeanors. The Proposition reduced property theft penalties for offenses involving property valued at less than $950. Today, stealing property worth less than that amount is a misdemeanor rather than a felony offense.
Depending on the facts of your case, mail theft may also be charged as a federal offense and prosecuted by federal prosecutors in federal court. A federal crime of mail theft may lead to more severe penalties if you’re convicted.
Proving Mail Theft in California
It’s true that you may go to jail if you’re convicted of mail theft in California. However, the prosecution must show the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt to gain a conviction:
- You acted willfully or maliciously
- You tore down, destroyed, or broke into a mailbox or other container intended for mail delivery
- Or, you willfully and maliciously destroyed any mail deposited into a mailbox
Mail theft may involve the United States Postal Service and interstate commerce, which may lead to federal charges. The moment you discover that you’re charged with mail theft, contact an attorney to learn the details of your charges and the best method for challenging them.
What are some defenses for mail theft in California?
It’s possible to be accused of mail theft in a case where you didn’t realize you were stealing mail. A common scenario exemplifies this. Picture yourself as a new tenant in an apartment where you receive the previous tenant’s mail. You hold on to the mail because you intend to send it back with a “Return to Sender” notice, but don’t get around to it.
You would not be found guilty in a court of law of mail theft for this since you did not act maliciously. In this example, you’d have a strong accident defense.
Defenses for both stealing mail and porch pirating may also include the following:
- Mistaken identity
- False accusation
- Insufficient evidence
- You believed the mail was for you
Attorney Dod is the Defense Lawyer You Need in San Diego
With more than 75 jury trials and 6,500 cases’ worth of experience, you can count on Attorney Dod of Dod Law to provide a strong defense for your porch pirating or mail theft case. Dod has represented individuals facing criminal charges in San Diego for 16 years. The penalties you may face for a misdemeanor or federal mail charge are severe. Allow Dod to work to reduce your charges. Call (619) 814-5110 or complete our contact form for a free consultation today.