Is It Illegal To Throw Away Mail (Punishments + Fines)

Each night my wife and I go down to our apartment complexes’ mailbox and collect our mail. Most day’s we get the usual marketing brochure from our local convenance store but some days we get also mail from a prior tenant of our apartment. We’ve never known what to do with these pieces of mail, do we throw it or away or give it back? So I decided to do some digging and this is what I have found out.

Yes, it’s illegal to throw away mail if it is labeled to someone else but if you’re throwing away mail that is labeled to you it’s not illegal. Often times, mail that is addressed to a prior tenant of your apartment can contain sensitive information about the past tenant, such as bank statements or credit card bills. As such, it’s important to be very careful when disposing of this type of mail.

When you continue reading this article you’ll find out how to dispose of mail properly and steps to take to not receive someone else’s mail.

What Are The Punishments For Throwing Away Someone’s Mail?

Before I dive into what the punishments are you need to understand what intent is and how it affects the potential punishment.

What is Intent?

Intent is the mental state of mind that an individual has when they are throwing away someone else’s mail. For example, if you are throwing away mail that is addressed to someone else and you know that it’s not yours to throw away, this would be considered intentional.

The Potential Punishments

The penalties for tossing someone else’s mail can vary depending on the severity of the case. In some cases, individuals who are found guilty of intentionally throwing away someone else’s mail may face fines or even jail time, depending on the circumstances. However, it is important to note that in most cases, individuals who dispose of mail without malicious intent will not face any legal penalties.

How To Legally Return or Toss Mail

If it’s your mail, then do whatever you please with it. Though I would recommend shredding your mail if it contains sensitive information that could leave you vulnerable.

If you’re getting someone else’s mail then there are a few steps you can take to return it back to the post office.

What To Do With Mail That Isn’t Yours:

  1. Checking the mail to see if it is addressed to someone else.
  2. Writing “Return To Sender” on front of envelope and put it back into your mail box.
  3. Contacting the person or company that sent you the mail, and letting them know that you are in possession of their mail, and asking for instructions on how to return it to them.
  4. If you cannot contact the sender of the mail, then you can take it to your local post office. The post office will be able to help you return the mail back to its rightful owner.

What if It’s an Old Tenants Mail?

If you are receiving mail from a previous tenant, then this could be a sign that the old tenant hasn’t changed their mailing address. In these cases, it is important to contact the sender of the mail directly and let them know that they have been sending mail to an old address.

What To Do If Someone Is Tossing Your Mail?

Let’s say you see your neighbor walking over to your mailbox and grabbing your mail and throwing it away. This is a drastic example but nonetheless.

How To Report Them

There are a few steps you can take to protect yourself from someone who is intentionally throwing away your mail.

  1. The first step is to contact your local post office and file a report with them. The postal service will be able to help you track down the person responsible for tossing your mail, and may take legal action against them if necessary.
  2. Another option is to contact your local police department. They may be able to assist you in resolving the situation, either by speaking to your neighbor directly, or contacting them on your behalf. If you are concerned about potential safety risks, it may also be a good idea to install a mail drop box or security camera outside of your home, to help protect you from future incidents.

Can You Sue Them?

Depending on the severity and intent of your neighbor, you may be able to sue them for violating your privacy by accessing your mail. However, you will need to consult with a lawyer in order to better understand your legal options and whether or not you have a valid case against your neighbor.

It’d also be important to film or take photos of your neighbors in the act. This will help your case in the end.


Whether you are intentionally throwing away someone else’s mail, or dealing with someone who is tossing your mail, there are steps that you can take to protect yourself and resolve the situation. By filing a report with your local postal office or police department, taking photos or video of the incident, and installing security measures to prevent future incidents from happening, you can help ensure that your mail stays safe and out of the hands of those who do not have a right to it.

Continue reading more criminal defense topic articles.