Are Porch Pirates Illegal?
Life is slowly returning to normal during the COVID-19 pandemic. People
are going back to school, work, and the gym, eating out, and “going
out and about” to socialize after about one year of staying at home
and complying with strict safety rules. People are away from their homes
more often since the start of the pandemic, creating more opportunities
for porch pirates to commit mail theft. Although more businesses are opening
up, people continue to elect online shopping and delivery over in-person
shopping. For instance, Americans have ordered groceries, household items,
and even medication online at peak rates during the pandemic, and this
trend will likely continue.
For these reasons, police officers are urging homeowners to be aware of
porch pirates. As things start going back to normal, people will be at
home less often, which is opportune for porch pirates. By definition,
porch pirates are people who steal packages and other types of mail from
doorsteps and mailboxes.
Stealing mail from other people’s doorsteps and mailboxes, or “porch
piracy” has long been a crime, but June marks the second anniversary
of the signing of House Bill 37, which enhances the criminal charges for
mail theft from a misdemeanor to a felony under certain circumstances.
Typically, mail theft is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to $4,000
fines and/or up to 1 year in jail.
However, HB 37 adds felony charges based on the number of packages stolen,
the type of victims, and the use of identifying information from the stolen
mail to commit certain fraud offenses. Let’s take a closer look:
- It is a Class A misdemeanor to intentionally steal mail from fewer than
It is a state jail felony to steal mail from fewer than 30 addresses
- A state jail felony in Texas is punishable by 180 days to 2 years in jail
and/or up to a $10,000 fine
It is a third-degree felony to steal mail from 30 or more addresses
- A third-degree felony in Texas is punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison
and/or a $10,000 fine
While these charges and penalties seem harsh enough, wait until you learn
about the consequences for stealing mail containing an item of identifying
information with the intent to fraudulently use or possess such identifying
information. A person who commits this offense will be charged as such:
- A state jail felony if the mail is stolen from fewer than 10 addresses
- A third-degree felony if the mail is stolen from at least 10 but less than
A second-degree felony if the mail is stolen from at least 20 addresses
but fewer than 50 addresses
- A second-degree felony is punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison and/or
a $10,000 fine in Texas
A first-degree felony if the mail is stolen from 50 or more addresses
- Among the most serious charges a person can get, a first-degree felony
in Texas is punishable by 5 to 99 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine
If a person steals mail from a person whom they know to be a disabled or
an elderly individual, the charge is increased to the next higher charge.
For instance, if a person steals packages from 7 addresses in an assisted
living community, knowing the properties belong to disabled or elderly
people, they will typically get a Class A misdemeanor charge. But due
to the type of victims in this instance, the suspect would face state
jail felony charges.
As you can see, the state of Texas does not mess around with porch pirates.
It has become increasingly common during the COVID-19 pandemic, and now
that businesses are back open, people will be home less often. For this
reason, the police are vigilant for porch pirates at this time in particular.
Zealous Defense for Your Charges
We encourage you to retain legal representation if you have been accused
of stealing mail from another person’s porch or mailbox. Oftentimes,
accusers see security footage from their doorbell cameras and make assumptions
as to who the suspect could be, resulting in false allegations. Whether
or not this applies to your case, you can count on our compassionate defense
lawyer to fiercely defend your freedom and work towards lowered or dismissed
charges on your behalf.
To learn about your defense options and get started, please contact us
at (972) 330-4050!