As is the case with most people in Atlanta, the thought of committing a federal offense has never even crossed your mind. The thought of playing a prank, however, may just have. You have probably heard before that damaging or destroying public mailboxes is a crime. Yet what you (and likewise many of those who have come to see us here at Conaway& Strickler, PC) may not be aware of is that it is a federal crime, and one that authorities take very seriously.
Indeed, according to the Cornell Law School, destroying a mailbox is a federal offense that is punishable by either fines or imprisonment of up to three years (or a combination of both). Per the US Postal Service, the fines associated with this defense can be up to $250,000. Not only is damaging, defacing or destroying a mailbox punishable under this statute, but so too is entering or breaking open a mailbox (that is not yours) to gain access to others’ mail.
You have probably seen or heard of stories of rowdy teens or young adults hitting mailboxes with baseball bats or putting firecrackers inside of them. You likely dismiss these as childish pranks, yet the damage that they cause and the impact that such an act can have is very real. Thus, it is not an acceptable defense to a charge of destroying a mailbox that you or someone you know was simply trying to play a joke.
Gaining entry to another’s mailbox presents more of a grey area, however. If, say, you believed you had another’s permission to get their mail, then it could be argued that there was no intent to damage or defraud. More information on answering to alleged federal crimes like damaging a mailbox can be found here on our site.