Although online shopping existed long before the COVID-19 pandemic, more people began to use websites like Amazon and eBay to purchase items at the height of the global health crisis. Today, online shopping has become so big that even brick-and-mortar retailers have also expanded their presence on the Web.
With so many people shopping online, it can be easy for online markets and distribution centers to mix the packages up. Perhaps the delivery driver mistakenly left a package at the wrong residence, or they mislabeled a package meant for another house.
If you receive a package that’s not meant for you, what would you do? If you said you’d keep it, be warned – you just committed a crime under Pennsylvania law. Not just any crime, but the act of keeping another person’s package is theft, per state law.
Keeping a package delivered by mistake is a crime
According to state rules, a person who comes into control of the property of another that they know is lost, mislaid or delivered by mistake is guilty of theft, especially if they fail to take reasonable measures to return the property (i.e., correcting the delivery driver, bringing it to the right address, contacting the original recipient, etc.).
Because state law consolidates theft offenses, those who illegally keep packages that aren’t theirs will face the same penalties levied on thieves and those who commandeered other people’s vehicles without permission.
Penalties for keeping a misdelivered package
If a person keeps a package with contents worth less than $50, their theft offense becomes a misdemeanor of the third degree. On conviction, the person faces up to a year in prison and $2,500 in fines.
However, the higher the value of the item stolen, the more severe the conviction and penalties:
- Item worth more than $50, less than $200: The offense is a misdemeanor of the second degree, which carries up to two years of prison and $5,000 in fines.
- Item worth more than $200, less than $2,000: This is a misdemeanor of the first degree, which leads to up to five years of prison and $10,000 in fines.
- Item worth more than $2,000, less than $100,000: This is a third-degree felony, which leads to up to seven years of prison and $15,000 in fines.
- Item worth $100,000 or more but less than $500,000: This is a second-degree felony, which leads up to ten years of prison and $25,000 in fines.
- Item worth $500,000 or more: This offense is a first-degree felony, which is punishable by up to 20 years of prison and $25,000 in fines.
If the receiver is in the business of buying or selling stolen property, their theft charge could also lead to a first-degree felony conviction.
Yes, it’s a crime to keep a package meant for your neighbor. You can face theft charges for such a stunt, and the consequences are severe. Consider your defense options if you find yourself in this situation.