Before the governor of Texas signed HB 37, taking a package from a porch did not result in serious penalties because an individual faced charges under a general theft offense. With HB 37, however, the law now classifies any type of mail theft as a state-level felony offense, and mail taken from 10 or more different addresses may result in serious felony charges.

HB 37 defines mail as any letter, package, postcard, sealed item or bag delivered to a residence by a courier or package delivery driver. If law enforcement officials suspect you of taking mail from fewer than 10 different addresses you may only face a misdemeanor charge for each offense. If convicted, however, punishment may include a fine of up to $4,000 and imprisonment of up to one year.

According to FreightWaves, an otherwise misdemeanor offense may escalate into a felony charge when taking mail is an action to carry out fraud or identity theft. The most serious charge, a first-degree felony offense, requires proof of taking mail from more than 50 different addresses. A conviction may result in a lengthy prison sentence and a hefty fine. The Lone Star State may also elevate a misdemeanor to a felony if an individual took only one package from an elderly or a disabled resident’s porch.

Austin ranks as the number one city where package thieves target porches during the holidays, as reported by the home-security site Safewise. If a law enforcement official suspects you of taking a package from a porch, you may defend yourself against the charge in order to avoid a conviction.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and not intended as legal advice.