What Are The Penalties For Tampering With Mail in Australia?

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.

previous post: Is Making False AVO Claims a Criminal Offence?

next post: The Penalties for not Telling the Truth in Court

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About Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Specialist Criminal Lawyer and Principal at Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, Sydney's leading firm of criminal and traffic defence lawyers.


  1. JACK

    I received a letter addressed to me and my wife from my neighbour by his solicitor.

    My neighbour hand delivered the letter in person to my door, and we could see it had been opened.
    Upon opening the letter we found our neighbour had indeed opened the letter to insert his own little inclusion of threats….

    My question is, is it illegal for him to open mail addressed to me? as he could have also removed other enclosures from his solicitor.

  2. Anny

    Aus post opened a parcel i received unlawfully. Under their own suspicions. The parcle was local mail not internatinal mail and the contentce had very obviously been tampered with , no letter or note was included by the post office to say why the parcel had been opened such as a customs notice.

  3. Lisa Sandstrom

    We have tenants in our home who’s lease expires next Tuesday. They are refusing to vacate the premises. Telstra have sent a modem there this week addressed to us one week earlier than expected. When we called Telstra to cancel our internet connection as we can not get into our home they informed us the modem is up and running in our home and we are paying for the usage. Obviously these tenants have opened our mail and set it up for their own use. Surely this is stolen mail? What can we do?
    Lisa Sandstrom

  4. Kristy

    I had a private letter sent as a union delegate to the head office address. This envelope had clearly been opened by a letter opener. It was delivered to my workplace via internal mail. What is the legality of this situation?

  5. sheila smith

    I have been sending parcels letters etc to a post office box which was listed on the court documentation. I recently found out the address had been changed so I started sending the parcels letters etc to the new post office box. I believe the person who should be receiving these goods has told the post office his incorrect name and has been signing in the wrong name. He is stating in court that he is not receiving anything from me because I have been sending the goods to his correct name. The name he is using is his brothers who is not in Australia. Is this a fraudulent offence and if so how can I report it?

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