Mailbox Vandalism Laws

By Jayne Thompson - Updated March 15, 2018
mailbox

mailbox image by Pix by Marti from Fotolia.com

Hitting mailboxes with a baseball bat, setting off a pipe bomb or deliberately striking a mailbox with a car may seem like "sport" to some people, but it's a crime that doesn't pay off. Mailboxes are protected by federal law and tampering with them can lead to some serious criminal penalties.

Tip

It is a federal offense to vandalize a mailbox, punishable by a fine up to $250,000 and three years in a federal prison.

Acts That Constitute Mailbox Vandalism

Anything that damages, harms or defaces a mailbox or its contents could potentially be considered mailbox vandalism. Examples of vandalism include:

  • knocking over the mailbox
  • scratching or denting the mailbox
  • breaking the mailbox open
  • setting off firecrackers or pipe bombs
  • putting anything into the mailbox that damages the items inside

Since a mailbox is considered federal property even if you own it, vandalizing a mailbox is a federal crime. If you're found guilty, you're looking at fines up to $250,000 and three years' incarceration in a federal corrections facility.

Graffiti Is an Act of Vandalism

Most counties and cities treat graffiti as a low-level nuisance crime, punishable by fines in the region of $400 to $1,000. But when it comes to defacing a mailbox, graffiti is treated as far more than mere property damage. Maliciously defacing a mailbox is classified as mailbox tampering, and each act carries a federal court citation. As well as facing up to three years behind bars, you could also be looking at heavy fines up to $250,000, increasing in price as the severity of the vandalism rises.

Reporting Vandalism

Citizens should report an act of mailbox vandalism to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service using the agency's online vandalism complaint. The post office has a law enforcement and security arm that deals with such cases. It's also a good idea to call the local police. Law enforcement can investigate to determine if the vandalism was an isolated incident or part of a pattern of misbehavior in your area. Where it's your mailbox that's been damaged, the police can give you a report to use to get insurance reimbursement if necessary.

Don't Be a Victim

USPS publishes an adhesive-backed label, known as Label 33, which you can get for free from your local post office. The sticker describes the criminal penalties for tampering with a mailbox. It serves as a deterrent to mailbox vandalism. If your mailbox is repeatedly vandalized, it may be worth investing in a reinforced mailbox. These mailboxes cost more, but they are specially designed to withstand acts of attempted destruction.

About the Author

Jayne Thompson earned an LLB in Law and Business Administration from the University of Birmingham and an LLM in International Law from the University of East London. She practiced in various “big law” firms before launching a career as a commercial writer. Her work has appeared on numerous legal blogs including Quittance, Upcounsel and Medical Negligence Experts. Find her at www.whiterosecopywriting.com.

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