Four teenagers caught taking two packages from a porch avoided jail time because their alleged acts occurred before Texas’ new mail theft law went into effect. As reported by KHOU-TV, the local constable caught the teens after they reportedly dumped the stolen packages in a wooded area. Because the former law punished mail theft crimes based on the value of contents taken, the 14-year-olds did not face harsh penalties for allegedly taking two boxes, one of which contained a stuffed animal.

Before House Bill 37 became law, theft of mail, packages and other goods delivered by the postal service and taken from another individual typically resulted in a misdemeanor charge. Under the old law, an individual would receive a felony conviction only if the goods taken were worth more than $2,500.

The Lone Star State’s new law, however, classifies theft of mail and packages as either a misdemeanor or state-level felony based on lesser values than the previous law. The number of boxes or mail pieces taken determines the charge and sentence. A conviction under the new law, even if a misdemeanor, may include jail time.

Punishment under House Bill 37

As noted by KSAT 12 News, an individual may now face jail time and state felony charges regardless of the value involved when caught taking mail or packages belonging to another.

For a state felony conviction, prosecutors must prove that an individual took at least 10 to 30 packages or mail pieces from a variety of addresses. Punishment may include a maximum fine of $10,000 and jail time between six months and two years.

Individuals may face a third-degree felony charge for taking greater than 30 mail pieces or packages from various addresses. A conviction may result in a maximum fine of $10,000 and between two and 10 years in prison.

For defendants found taking one to nine packages or mail pieces, a Class A misdemeanor charge may apply. The punishment may include a fine of up to $4,000 and a maximum jail sentence of one year.