There’s a lot of trust that goes on with mail. Most of us do not have locked mailboxes. The post office drops off stuff in a box at the bottom of our driveways, or leaves packages on our porches, and drives away. When we get home, we get the stuff they’ve left in the boxes or on our porches and bring it inside. Most of the time the stuff is useless – coupons for stores we never visit or catalogues for products we don’t buy.
Sometimes, there’s sentimental things in there. Hand knit blankets from Grandma. Letters from Dad who is serving our country overseas. Other times, there are valuable things. Checks from insurance companies. Valuable electronics we have mail-ordered. Presents sent to us by loved ones.
Mail theft happens. Frankly, it’s amazing it doesn’t happen more often given how easy the crime is to commit. It’s proof, I guess, that most people are good people, not thieves. Theft is and has always been a crime, and mail theft is a federal crime, punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison.
Still, the laws don’t always keep up with the changing world. Mail used to be the primary means of communicating long distance. Now that we have email and Zoom and texting and whatnot, mail is rarely used for person to person communication. For that matter, it isn’t even used that often for paying bills, since we can do that online, too.
Mail has become a conduit for commercial transactions. For advertising and delivering. Which ups the ante for would-be thieves. Stealing someone else’s bills and Christmas cards from Aunt Susan didn’t make for an interesting haul. Stealing the spoils of someone’s Amazon and QVC shopping spree is something else altogether.
Enter Georgia House Bill 94, otherwise known as the Porch Piracy bill. It expands the definition of mail to include anything delivered by any common carrier or delivery service (so FedEx, UPS, or those ubiquitous Amazon trucks would all count). A person is guilty of porch piracy if they take three or more “envelopes, bags, packages, or other related articles of another person without the permission of such other person from the porch, steps or immediate vicinity of any entrance or exit of a dwelling of three or more different mailboxes or addresses.” In plainer words, a porch pirate is someone who swipes packages from three or more houses. The crime is punishable by 1-5 years in prison and it’s a felony, although the judge can make it a misdemeanor at his or her discretion.
And yes, the phrase “porch piracy” is actually in the bill. That is officially a legal term now, and I cannot be happier about it.
Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice. It is being offered for informational purposes only.