15 Sep 23

Avoiding Charges of Theft or Destruction of Postal Service Property

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Last Updated on: 25th September 2023, 05:57 pm

Avoiding Charges of Theft or Destruction of Postal Service Property

Getting charged with theft or destruction of Postal Service property can lead to fines, imprisonment, and a criminal record. While some cases may truly be accidents or mistakes, others involve deliberate criminal actions. Regardless of intent, these charges can carry serious consequences. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to avoid such charges.

Know the Laws

The first line of defense is simply being aware of the laws regarding Postal Service property. There are several federal laws that apply:

  • 18 U.S. Code § 1707 – Theft of property used by Postal Service[1]. This covers theft, embezzlement, or misuse of any Postal Service property.
  • 18 U.S. Code § 1705 – Destruction of letter boxes or mail[2]. This covers vandalizing or damaging any mail receptacle or mail.
  • 18 U.S. Code § 1703 – Delay or destruction of mail or newspapers[3]. This covers intentionally delaying, secreting, or destroying mail.

Potential penalties include fines up to $250,000 and imprisonment up to 5 years. Know what actions could violate these laws so you can avoid them.

Handle Mail and Packages Carefully

One of the most common ways people run afoul of the law regarding Postal Service property is by mishandling mail or packages. While accidents happen, you need to handle all mail with care. For example:

  • Don’t toss mail haphazardly into a mailbox or collection box. Place it carefully inside.
  • Don’t leave mail sitting in an overflowing mailbox. Retrieve it promptly.
  • Don’t rip or damage envelopes or packaging when opening mail.
  • Protect packages from weather or potential damage when left for pickup.

A little caution goes a long way. If mail does become damaged, report it promptly rather than trying to hide any mishaps.

Secure Collection Boxes

Blue Postal Service collection boxes located in public areas are convenient, but also vulnerable. Avoid misuse by:

  • Only depositing mail or items intended for mailing.
  • Not tampering with or reaching into the box.
  • Leaving the box door securely closed after use.
  • Reporting any damage, graffiti, or suspicious activity.
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Don’t give in if tempted to use these boxes for anything other than their intended purpose. It’s simply not worth the risk.

Follow Proper Mailbox Procedures

Your own mailbox is Postal Service equipment entrusted to your care. Make sure you:

  • Check your mailbox daily and remove deliveries promptly. Don’t allow mail to accumulate.
  • Keep your mailbox locked and inaccessible to anyone but postal carriers.
  • Make sure your mailbox door closes securely.
  • Notify your local post office if your mailbox is damaged.
  • Return any misdelivered mail promptly rather than discarding it.

Following these mailbox procedures helps prevent theft or misuse in your neighborhood.

Secure Business Mail Areas

If your business receives mail or deliveries, make sure the mailroom or delivery area is secure. Steps to take include:

  • Restrict access to mail areas to authorized personnel only.
  • Install security cameras to monitor mail and package delivery.
  • Provide lockable mailboxes for employees.
  • Don’t leave incoming mail unattended.
  • Require ID and signatures for package pickup.

A business mailroom requires oversight and security to avoid issues. Don’t let unauthorized individuals access incoming mail and packages.

Don’t Delay Mail

While it may be tempting to set aside a letter or package for a while before delivering or processing it, intentionally delaying mail violates federal law. Avoid delayed mail by:

  • Logging and processing incoming mail right away.
  • Making deliveries promptly each day.
  • Notifying supervisors of any factors preventing prompt mail processing or delivery.
  • Reporting coworkers who chronically delay mail handling.
  • Keeping mail storage areas neat and organized.

Make timely mail handling a priority. If issues arise with prompt processing, address them rather than disregarding procedures.

Don’t Throw Away Mail

While mail should not be delayed, there is also never a reason to throw it away. Be sure to:

  • Deliver all addressed mail without fail.
  • Return undelivered mail to the sender.
  • Forward mail to the new address for moved recipients.
  • Turn in any discarded mail found in public places.
  • Investigate anytime mail seems to be missing or unaccounted for.

Every piece of mail should reach its intended recipient. Don’t let that expectation be compromised.

Limit Access to Mail Keys

Postal Service arrow keys or lock keys should be closely guarded:

  • Only provide keys to authorized personnel.
  • Don’t loan keys to anyone, even coworkers.
  • Store keys securely when not in use.
  • Immediately report any lost or stolen keys.
  • Follow procedures for rekeying when employees leave.

Don’t allow access to these sensitive keys to fall into the wrong hands. Restrict and monitor at all times.

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Watch for Suspicious Activity

Sometimes postal crimes occur because of lack of awareness. Be vigilant and watch for:

  • Unauthorized individuals near mail or collection boxes.
  • Unknown vehicles following mail carriers on routes.
  • Mail, stamps, or equipment inventory discrepancies.
  • Discarded mail in strange locations.
  • Coworkers with unexplained absences near mail delivery times.

Report any suspicious activity promptly to postal inspectors. Don’t ignore warning signs of potential mail theft.

Make Ethical Choices

At the end of the day, avoiding charges of theft or destruction comes down to making ethical choices:

  • Resist temptation for financial gain or to benefit others.
  • Don’t compromise standards for quickness or convenience.
  • Treat every piece of mail as important.
  • Take pride in safeguarding the mail in your trust.
  • Have the integrity to do the right thing every time.

No one accidentally becomes a mail thief overnight. Make daily choices to protect the mail.

The Postal Service takes charges of theft and vandalism seriously, as do postal inspectors. While accidents happen, any deliberate or criminal actions face prosecution. Protect yourself and your career by following protocols and securing mail and equipment. When in doubt, reach out to supervisors or inspectors for guidance. With proper precautions, you can avoid making mistakes or bad choices you’ll later regret.


  1. 18 U.S. Code § 1707 – Theft of property used by Postal Service
  2. 18 U.S. Code § 1705 – Destruction of letter boxes or mail
  3. 18 U.S. Code § 1703 – Delay or destruction of mail or newspapers