Ask a Trooper

Posted: Tuesday, May 29, 2001

Question: We have repeatedly had our roadside our mail box destroyed beyond repair. We also have had our mail removed from the box, torn open and left in and around the box. Are these acts criminal? When the person is caught, what is the possible punishment?

Answer: Yes, these acts are definitely criminal. Damaging or destroying someone's personal mail box is called criminal mischief, more commonly known as vandalism. Anyone caught doing this will be charged with a B misdemeanor under A.S. 11.46.486(a)(2), punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 90 days in jail (assuming the damage is less than $50).

In addition, if your mail is opened without your permission, that is illegal under A.S. 11.76.120. Anyone caught opening or reading someone else's mail will spend between a month and a year behind bars and be fined $50-$500.

Contrary to popular belief, this is not a federal offense. Your mail box belongs to you, not the U.S. Postal Service (although the U.S.P.S. can specify size and location restrictions), and your outgoing mail does not fall under postal regulations until it is picked up by a mail carrier. Once your incoming mail is placed in your box by a mail carrier, it again becomes your personal property and does not fall under federal mail tampering laws.

If you have questions that you would like to ask a trooper, please send them to: Alaska State Troopers, 4060 Heath St., Homer, AK 99603. Or you can e-mail them to The Alaska State Troopers remind you to always wear your seat belt. It's the law.

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