Tampering with mail in Australia is a Commonwealth offence.
The offence of tampering with mail includes interfering with mail receptacles, stealing mail before delivery and opening mail that you are not authorised to open, as well as a number of other illegal activities.
There are harsh penalties for tampering with mail, including fines and possibly even a prison sentence.
If you have been charged with tampering with mail or a related offence, it is a good idea to find an experienced criminal lawyer to advise you on your best defence.
What acts are included in the offence of tampering with mail?
The offence of tampering with mail comes under the Telecommunications and Postal Services Act 1989.
This act covers a large number of different activities that are considered to be Commonwealth offences. These include:
- Forging postage stamps or knowingly using postage stamps which have been forged.
- Stealing mail bags from Australia Post employees.
- Stealing mail from Australia Post.
- Tampering or interfering with mailbags.
- Tampering or interfering with letters or other articles that are being delivered by Australia Post.
- Obtaining a delivery item by deception.
- Helping someone else obtain a letter or other delivery item by deception.
- Using the postal service to harass or threaten someone else.
- Interfering with a post box or stamp vending machine.
These offences don’t just relate to items that are carried by Australia Post, other mail carriers and delivery services are also included.
What are the penalties for tampering with mail and related offences?
The penalties for tampering with mail in Australia include a maximum prison sentence of five years.
Whether you receive five years imprisonment or two years imprisonment largely depends on whether you tampered with the mail with dishonest intentions or not.
Using the postal service to harass another person comes with a maximum penalty of one year in prison, while forging a postage stamp or knowingly using a forged postage stamp has a more severe penalty of 10 years imprisonment.
What if I accidentally open something belonging to someone else?
If you accidentally open someone else’s mail, this is not an offence. It is an offence to keep someone else’s mail or to obtain it dishonestly, but if it is wrongly delivered to your mailbox and you open it by accident, you should not face criminal charges.
Similarly, if you have been charged with tampering with mail based on an accident or error by Australia Post, you may be able to successfully have the charges against you withdrawn.
How can I defend myself against a charge of tampering with mail?
If you are facing Commonwealth charges as a result of interfering with the postal service, it is best to speak to a criminal lawyer as soon as possible.
Tampering with mail is considered a serious offence, and comes with harsh penalties, particularly if the judge perceives that you were doing it with dishonest intentions.
An experienced criminal lawyer can help you prepare your defence and advise you on the best course of action, so that you can hopefully avoid receiving the maximum penalty and spending time in prison.