Is It a Crime to Open Someone Else’s Mail in Nevada?
It is not a crime in Nevada to pick up or open someone else’s mail by accident. However, what you do with it once you discover your mistake can matter.
Under 18 USC 1708, it is a crime to destroy, steal or even possess mail belonging to another. If you fail to return mail you received in error, you could be charged with the federal felony crime of mail theft. Mail theft can be punished by:
- Up to 5 years in a federal penitentiary, and/or
- A fine of up to $250,000.1
As a practical matter, you are unlikely to be prosecuted if you throw away an item that is clearly junk mail. To be safe, however, it is best to simply write something such as “Delivered to wrong address” clearly on the envelope or package and return it to your mail carrier or any outgoing mailbox. If the addressee lives close by you can also deliver it yourself.
Additionally, if you keep goods that you did not pay for or you use the information in someone else’s mail to commit a crime, you may be guilty of additional crimes under both Nevada and federal law.
Nevada crimes often charged with federal mail tampering include violations of:
- Nevada theft laws;
- Nevada possession of stolen property laws;
- Nevada drug laws;
- Nevada trespassing laws; and
- Nevada identity theft laws.
Intentional Mail Theft or Tampering
18 U.S. Code 1708 also makes it a crime to steal or tamper with someone else’s mail or to obtain someone else’s mail by fraud or deception. It applies both to mail that has been delivered and mail that is awaiting pickup.
It is also a federal offense to take mail addressed to someone else directly from a post office, official blue mailbox, or a mail carrier.2 Stealing mail from a residence or business or directly from the U.S. postal service carries potential penalties of:
- Up to 5 years in federal prison, and/or
- A fine of up to $250,000.
Mail theft occurs quite frequently during the holidays, when many packages are being sent and received. But mail theft occurs year-round in Nevada. Thieves will often steal mail in the hope of finding valuable items such as checks, credit cards, prescriptions, gift cards, and personal identity documents.
How can I protect myself from mail theft?
The best way to protect yourself from mail theft is to get a locking mailbox large enough to hold packages. Don’t leave mail in your mailbox overnight and if you are going out of town, ask the post office to hold your mail.
For other tips on preventing mail theft, see the U.S. Postal Service’s page on Protecting Your Mail.
Victims of mail break-ins and theft in Nevada can report mail theft online or call the U.S. Postal Service at 1-800-ASK-USPS (1-800-275-8777).
Charged with mail theft in Nevada? Call us for help…
If you have been arrested for mail tampering in Las Vegas or Reno, we invite you to call us for a free consultation.
Mail theft and mail tampering are serious federal crimes that carry stiff fines and prison sentences. Our knowledgeable lawyers defend clients in Nevada and federal court on charges of mail tampering, identity theft, possession of stolen property and related charges.
To schedule your free consultation, fill out the form on this page or call us. One of our Las Vegas or Reno defense attorneys will get back to you promptly to discuss the best defense to your Nevada mail theft or mail tampering charges.
To learn about mail-related offenses in California, please see our page on California mail theft.
- 18 U.S. Code 3571(b)(3).
- 18 U.S. Code 1702.