Package Theft in Texas
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During the holiday season, it is not uncommon for packages to be left unaccompanied on front porches and other locations that are easily accessible to potential thieves. Theft of such packages is a crime of opportunity. For some individuals, the lure of an unaccompanied package is too much to resist. However, taking packages can result in serious consequences.
Texas State Law
Texas Penal Code 31.03 discusses various forms of theft of property. It states that theft occurs when a person takes something that does not belong to him or her and without the permission of the owner of the property or other legal justification. According to the wording of this statute, taking packages without permission is theft.
Under Texas law, the severity of the crime is based on the value of the property stolen. For example, if the value of the property is less than $100, the criminal defendant can face a fine up to $500. However, if the property is valued at more than $300,000, the defendant can be charged with a first-degree felony, which carries a potential life sentence as punishment.
The potential crime is based on the reality and not the intent of the defendant. For example, if a thief took a package from an expensive electronic store but the value of the property was minimal, he or she will be charged based on the actual – rather than the perceived – value of the property. Likewise, if the defendant intended to steal a small package of minimal value but it turned out to be something quite valuable, he or she can potentially be charged with a felony.
Federal Theft Law
Stealing packages under certain situations can result in the violation of federal law. Section 1708 USC discusses mail theft. This crime involves intentionally taking a piece of mail that belongs to someone else without their permission. This definition provides for such charges if a letter, check or package is take from its intended recipient. This crime may be committed when a person follows a mail truck around until it delivers a package and then takes it. Likewise, taking something out of another person’s mailbox without permission can violate federal law. Mail theft carries a potential sentence of five years in federal prison.
Avoiding Package Thefts
Individuals can take steps to safeguard their property and minimize the likelihood that their packages will be stole. For example, they can often legally install surveillance cameras. If a thief sees a surveillance camera he or she may not take the chance of stealing the package. Some people use special apps that inform them when someone is on their front porch or leaving a package at their property to show that they are aware of the package.
Another tactic is for a person to only have packages delivered that require a signature. This can be a selected option when purchasing products online or by directly contacting the seller or shipper. Another option is for individuals to have their packages delivered to a secure location, such as a UPS store, post office box or secure locker.
Due to the uptick in these types of crimes during the holidays, some law enforcement agencies turn to technology for assistance. They may develop sting operations that are designed to track thieves who steal packages. For example, they may include GPS track devices in bait packages, hoping to find repeat thieves.
Reporting Stolen Packages
When a person’s package is stolen, the intended recipient may contact the seller to see if there was insurance on the product. If there was, the individual may be able to file a claim and receive the value of the missing package. Even if separate insurance was not purchased, the carrier may provide automatic insurance up to a certain value. Some individuals may report the theft to the police. If they have video surveillance, they may freely provide this evidence to the police. Law enforcement can also talk to neighbors and see if there is any other evidence pertaining to the theft.
Legal Assistance for Package Theft Crimes
Individuals who are charged with theft of packages in Texas may face state or federal charges for such theft. Consequences can result in years behind bars if an effective legal strategy is not immediately implemented. There may be potential defenses, such as if the defendant did not realize that a package was not addressed to him or her or believed he or she had permission from the owner to pick it up. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can discuss your possible legal strategy.
Read more on this legal issueDifferences between Texas Criminal Offenses in Shoplifting and Robbery
Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.