I Accidentally Opened Someone Else's Mail. Am I Guilty of a Crime?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Nov 25, 2015 | 0 Comments

It's true that California and federal law take the crime of mail theft very seriously.

Under Penal Code 530.5(e) PC, theft of US mail is a misdemeanor carrying a maximum county jail sentence of one (1) year. And you can be guilty of this crime not just for stealing someone else's mail--but for removing the contents of someone else's mail, or receiving or possessing stolen mail, as well.

But California mail theft law specifies that you are only guilty if you act knowingly. If you accidentally take or open someone else's mail--not an unlikely scenario given a mistake by the post office--you are not guilty of this crime. 

And even if you did knowingly steal or open someone else's mail, you may be able to convince the prosecutor to drop or reduce the charges if you acted alone and did not commit or attempt any additional crimes.

Mail theft is taken seriously largely because it is a first step toward the more serious crimes of identity theft or credit card fraud. These days law enforcement is concerned about organized crime groups conducting large-scale mail theft operations in order to gather personal information for identity theft rings.

So if you committed mail theft randomly, or were motivated by personal concerns, you may be able to avoid the harshest penalties for this offense.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

Southern California DUI Defense attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT).


There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

Free attorney consultations...

Our attorneys want to hear your side of the story. Contact us 24/7 to schedule a FREE consultation with a criminal defense lawyer. We may be able to get your charges reduced or even dismissed altogether. And if necessary, we will champion your case all the way to trial.

Regain peace of mind...

Shouse Law Defense Group has multiple locations throughout California. Click Office Locations to find out which office is right for you.

Office Locations

Shouse Law Group has multiple locations all across California, Nevada, and Colorado. Click Office Locations to find out which office is right for you.

To contact us, please select your state:

Call us 24/7 (855) 396-0370