Porch pirates can be charged with felonies for stealing packages in Texas

Porch pirates may soon get a surprise in Texas, and it's not one that comes in a box.

It will come in the form of felony charges when they're caught stealing from unsuspecting mail recipients.

People stealing packages delivered to stoops and porches has become more common. Just this week, a man was accused of taking boxes of school supplies for a special needs class, bought by a teacher for her students, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

The packages were taken nine minutes after they were delivered to the Fort Worth home as shown in the security video posted by the victim, the newspaper reported.

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Ashleigh Powell told The Star-Telegram, "I work on a special-needs campus and spend a good amount of money making sure they have the supplies they need. So this year we started off with less than we had hoped but we will replace it at some point."

Powell said she has had other packages stolen from her porch, and that porch pirates hit her neighborhood frequently. Powell had a bicycle pump and drill taken in the past.

The average person isn't the only target, even lawmakers themselves have become victims. Texas state Rep. Ina Minjarez, a co-author of Texas House Bill 37, said her offices have been hit by people stealing mail, KSAT reported.

Starting Sept. 1, porch pirates can be charged with a felony when they take anything that is considered mail - that includes letters, postcards and packages, Fulshear police reminded citizens via Facebook.

It is a first-degree felony if someone steals from more than 50 people, a second-degree felony if someone steals from 20 to 50 people and a state felony if someone steals from fewer than 10 people.

The prison sentence, if convicted, can be from six months to 10 years behind bars and a fine of $4,000 to $10,000.

If the victim is elderly or if there is identity theft involved, there could be upgraded charges, Fulshear police said.

Technically mail theft is a felony under federal law, but was a misdemeanor with a ticket under Texas state law prior to the passage of House Bill 37CNN reported.

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