Online shopping is a way of life for many, particularly around the holidays where gift-givers have packages sent directly to the recipient. This would seem like it is a victimless crime or even a gag, but there are state and federal laws regarding the theft of packages and mail. Generally speaking, it involves individuals who “knowingly obtain or exercise control over anything of value of another without authorization, or by threat or deception, and intend to deprive the other person permanently of the use or benefit of the thing of value.”
Since the U.S. Postal Service and the Postmaster-General are both federal organizations, cases involved in the theft of mail are often handled in federal court. A federal conviction involves stiffer penalties and potential felony charges, up to five years in prison, and $250,000 in penalties. Rather than going to state or county lock up, federal charges mean federal prisons with a much higher level of security and a prison population that was convicted of the most serious crimes. Not surprisingly, federal courts often do not settle for parole at trial.
As mentioned, the state handles charges for packages sent by private companies like Amazon, FedEx and UPS. Items worth less than $2,000 are a misdemeanor, and items worth $2,000 or more are a felony charge. Misdemeanor charges can involve up to $5,000 in fines and 18 months in jail. Individuals can be charged for theft of something valued at $50 or more. The penalties can also involve restitution instead of incarceration, and the defendant may serve probation in place of incarceration. Felony theft can involve up to 24 years in State Prison and up to $1 million in fines. It may also involve restitution.
Fighting these charges
Many factors are involved in an alleged crime, including such defenses as ownership of the property in question, not knowingly taking the property or perhaps police misconduct. This is why it is crucial to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney. They can work to ensure the best possible outcome — _ideally, one that helps clients move on with their lives.