Is Stealing Mail in Australia Illegal?

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Mail with post stamp

Stealing mail is a Commonwealth offence in Australia, and comes with potentially harsh penalties.

If you are caught stealing mail in Australia, you could face a hefty prison sentence or large fines.

Mail theft is considered serious in Australia, as it can potentially lead to further crimes such as fraud and identity theft being committed.

If you have been charged with stealing mail, it is important to seek experienced legal representation as quickly as possible to reduce the likelihood of you receiving the most severe penalty.

What does stealing mail include?

Stealing mail does not just mean physically taking letters.

It can also include stealing mailbags, or delivery vehicles, or intercepting mail and causing it to be delivered to the wrong address.

Knowingly accepting mail that isn’t yours can also be classed as stealing according to the Commonwealth Offences Act.

What is a Commonwealth Offence?

Commonwealth offences are offences that are considered to be against the government or a government organisation.

While criminal legislation for non-Commonwealth offences differs from state to state, the laws governing Commonwealth offences don’t vary from state to state.

As well as stealing mail, other Commonwealth offences include customs offences, drug trafficking, defrauding Centrelink, and aircraft and aviation crimes.

Commonwealth offences are generally investigated by the Australian Federal Police (AFP), rather than by the local state police.

Stealing mail is considered an offence against the telecommunications and postal service, so rather than being treated as a standard larceny offence it can be prosecuted in the supreme court.

If it is considered to be a relatively minor offence, however, stealing mail in Australia can also be dealt with summarily in the local court or in the district courts.

What are the defences for stealing mail in Australia?

If you have been charged with stealing mail, your lawyer will be able to advise you on the best defence for your particular situation.

Some of the defences for stealing mail include if the mail was obtained by accident, or a genuine mistake.

There are a number of different factors that will determine the severity of your penalty if you are found guilty.

These factors can potentially lead to a reduction in the charges you face.

These include:

  • The overall value of the items that were stolen.
  • The degree of planning and the extent of time the offences took place over. A single opportunistic theft is likely to be treated differently to a long-term organised system of fraudulently obtaining mail.
  • The motivation behind the theft, and whether there were any other mitigating factors that contributed to you committing the offence.
  • If the mail was received by mistake, whether attempts were made to return it once the mistake was realised.

There are also a number of other Commonwealth postal offences which you could be charged with in addition to stealing mail.

These include tampering with mail, sending fraudulent letters by post, using a forged postal stamp and assaulting or committing an offence against an Australian postal worker.

It is important to take any charges of stealing mail seriously, as they could lead to severe penalties including imprisonment.

Commonwealth offences are dealt with differently to other offences so make sure you find a lawyer who is experienced in defending Commonwealth cases to help you defend yourself in court.

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Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist with 25 years of experience as a Criminal Defence Lawyer. He is the Principal of Sydney Criminal Lawyers®.

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