Although the penalties for stealing from Australia Post are similar to those for other larceny offences, Australia Post is a government organisation, which means that any crimes committed against it are considered to be federal offences.
If you are found guilty of stealing from Australia Post, you could find yourself facing prison for up to five years.
As well as Australia Post, there are a number of other organisations that are government agencies, and therefore any crime that involves these organisations leads to federal charges.
These agencies include Medicare, Centrelink, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and the Child Support Agency.
If you have been charged with an offence against a Commonwealth agency, whether it is stealing, vandalism, fraud or any other offence, it will generally be dealt with in the district or supreme court, rather than in the local court.
What does theft against a Commonwealth organisation actually mean?
Stealing from Australia Post includes stealing or misappropriating letters before or during their delivery, stealing mailbags and knowingly taking mail that has been wrongly delivered.
When it comes to government organisations like Medicare and Centrelink, theft includes fraudulently claiming benefits that you are not entitled to.
Theft can take place as a physical act of stealing, such as taking mail or mailbags from Australia Post employees or buildings, or as online theft, including setting up false identities or incorrectly reporting income and personal details.
The penalties for stealing from a Commonwealth organisation or fraudulently obtaining benefits can be severe, so if you have been charged with theft from Australia Post or any other federal organisation, it is important that you seek expert legal advice from a good criminal defence barrister or solicitor as soon as possible.
What are the penalties for stealing from a Commonwealth organisation?
If you are found guilty of stealing from Australia Post you will face a maximum of five years in prison. Other penalties you can incur include community service, a good behaviour bond, a fine, or a suspended sentence.
The penalties for stealing from other Commonwealth agencies, including Centrelink and Medicare, can also be substantial.
You will generally be required to repay any benefits that were fraudulently obtained, as well as face a potential prison sentence and fines.
Restitution orders are a type of penalty that is specific to Commonwealth offences.
If you have been found guilty of defrauding or stealing from a Commonwealth agency such as Australia Post or Medicare, you may be required to pay back the sum that you took through a restitution order, which can take the place of other penalties or in some cases be imposed in addition to your sentence.
Is it possible to avoid a criminal conviction for a Commonwealth offence?
In some cases, it may be possible to obtain a Section 19B for a Commonwealth stealing offence.
Similar to a Section 10 order, a Section 19B discharges an offender without proceeding to conviction, and imposes a good behaviour bond.
This means that you will need to adhere to certain terms and conditions in exchange for not having a criminal conviction recorded against you.
Section 19B orders are given at the discretion of the magistrate or judge, and depend on a number of factors, including any previous criminal history you may have, the likelihood of you reoffending, the trivial nature of the offence, and any extenuating circumstances that may have contributed to the offence.
Your criminal lawyer will be able to provide you with more information about Section 19B orders, and whether they are applicable in your circumstances.