How Stealing an Amazon Package Can Lead to Federal Charges

June 19, 2018

By Jill K. Sanders, Esq.

After hours of shopping in stores and online, you find the perfect gift for your spouse on Amazon. You order the gift and, on the day of its anticipated delivery, you excitedly watch your phone for confirmation of the package being delivered to your home. The email comes in – “Package Delivered.” Driving home from work, you think how happy your spouse will be with this gift. Yet when you pull into the driveway, you see no familiar brown Amazon box on your doorstep. Your “delivered” package is nowhere to be found.

Sound familiar? Recent news articles have covered the rise in such “porch pirating.” By some estimates, as many as 1 in 3 people have had packages stolen from their homes; 23 million people had packages stolen in 2015 alone.

Not only does stealing a package impact the consumer who hasn’t received his or her goods, vendors are experiencing losses when its customers demand a replacement product because theirs has been stolen.

The theft of mail and packages is far from a victimless crime. Prosecutors are going after those who are stealing mail, and the possible punishment for such offenses can be steep.


Offenses Related to Theft of Mail

Most crimes involving theft of mail are prosecuted under Article 155 of New York State’s Penal Law as a larceny. The level of crime, ranging from A misdemeanor to B felony, are based on the value of the property stolen. Grand larceny in the first degree, a B felony, is punishable by up to 8⅓ to 25 years in prison in addition to fines and restitution.

Not only can mail theft be prosecuted by state officials, but federal authorities can also prosecute those who steal mail. Under the federal penal code, “Theft or Receipt of Stolen Mail Matter” is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison, in addition to a fine. Additional larceny charges based on the value of stole goods are also possible.

If stolen mail contains more sensitive items, such as identifying documents or credit cards, additional crimes and penalties may result. If you or a loved one are contacted about an investigation into mail theft or if you have been arrested, you should contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.


Preventing Mail Theft

Home security systems are promoted as one way to have peace of mind for home deliveries. Newer security systems use cameras at vulnerable points in a home, including the front door where packages may be left. Not only can such systems discourage theft, police can use surveillance footage to track serial package thieves.

Some police departments have also begun programs where they use “bait” packages to discourage package theft. The “bait” package contains items along with a hidden GPS locator, and the bait is left on a volunteer’s porch. As soon as a package is moved, police get an alert and officers track the package.

Many retailers already use storage lockers where items can be retrieved, although such lockers are usually only available in larger cities. Some online retailers, such as Amazon and Walmart, even use smart technology which would allow package delivery to your car’s trunk or even to the inside of your own home. UPS and FedEx offer web apps to help reroute parcels to another address or reschedule delivery.

Finally, some people have taken to shipping all packages to their places of employment, where they or another co-worker can accept the package. However, doing so eliminates the convenience of having home delivery for large or bulky items.