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Is it a Federal Offense to open some else's mail delivered to the wrong address?

Katy, TX |

My ex husband received (at his address) an important letter sent to me by my insurance company, and opened it! This letter contained personal informations, including my account details. Was my ex husband in his rights to open my mail, instead of re-posting it to me?

Attorney Answers 3


Federal law prohibits the theft of mail or the obstruction of its delivery, among other things, but interestingly, there is no federal statute that prohibits the opening of lawfully delivered mail. However, there are criminal penalties for the misuse of the information gained from the opening of lawfully obtained mail, such as aggravated identity theft, etc.

Joshua Sabert Lowther, Esq.

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There are federal offenses that arguably could cover this conduct, but it is very common to open someone else's mail by accident when it is delivered to you. No prosecutor would bother with such a trivial case. Your time would be better spent notifying your various accounts of your change of address.

This answer is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended as the practice of law in any jurisdiction in which I am not licensed. The answer does not constitute legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. The answer is based only on the information provided, and may be inaccurate in the context of additional facts that have not been provided. The questioner should be aware that I am only licensed to practice law in the state and federal courts of Minnesota. Accordingly, before taking any action or refraining from taking any action, the questioner should consult with an attorney licensed to practice in his or her jurisdiction.

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There are some laws which might cover it but, if he has turned the mail over to you, I wouldn't hold my breath. This changes if he does something inappropriate with the contents or information.

Your priority should be to contact your insurance company (and any other accounts which may have the same error) and make sure they update your records.

For a consultation, e-mail to set up an appointment. This answer is provided based on limited facts and does not create an attorney-client relationship, nor should it be relied on as legal advice. It is only a generalized, cursory examination and is not a substitute for retaining a licensed attorney.

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