HB 37: Texas Porch Pirate Law


Package Theft in Texas

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.

What is a Texas Porch Pirate?

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.

Are Porch Pirates Illegal?

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.

What Are the Penalties for Mail Theft in TX?

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 10 addresses
  • 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

What Are the Penalties for Stealing Mail With Intent to Commit Fraud?

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 20 addresses
  • 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

Penalties for Stealing From the Disabled or Elderly

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 criminal defense options and get started, please contact us online or give J. Roland Jeter, P.C.​ a call at (972) 330-4050!

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