Stealing packages is a federal offense

At any time of year, there’s likely to be someone who receives a package to their front doorstep, mailbox or porch. For the most part, these packages go untouched. After all, if it was yours, you’d want it to be there when you got home, too.

Sadly, some people do believe that it’s appropriate to steal packages. The trouble with taking a package off the doorstep of another person’s home is that it’s against the law. Some people might take them thinking that they’re being nice, planning to hold them for the neighbor until they return. However, the reality is that it is never acceptable to take a package from someone’s property. If you’re caught, you can face serious penalties.

Don’t be a “porch pirate”

The clever nickname for people who steal packages intentionally is “porch pirate.” Some people make a habit of looking for packages to steal, but the reality is that not all people who are caught picking up someone else’s package intended to do so.

There are people who want to hold on to a neighbor’s mail until they’re home out of fear of the package being stolen, but that can actually get them in trouble if they’re falsely accused of trying to steal. In some cases, the person who cannot find the package may accuse the neighbor, because they did not want someone to take the package into their care.

Stealing someone’s mail is a federal offense

Packages are mail, and stealing mail is a federal offense. United States Code 18 Section 1708 explicitly states the penalties for stealing someone else’s mail. If you are charged and convicted, you face up to five years in prison and fines of around a quarter of a million dollars. This could be multiplied by the number of packages you’ve taken, too, so you could quickly see the charges add up.

The best thing to do is to keep an eye on your neighbor’s mail or to talk to them about keeping it safe if you worry about them not being home for several hours after delivery. If you do take a package in due to poor weather or because you see others who might be considering taking the package, leave a note to let your neighbor know where the package is. The last thing you want to deal with is the police being called because of a misunderstanding.