Legislative session begins for 2021 in Missouri

A Color Guard enters the Missouri House chamber to open the 2021 legislative session Wednesday, in Jefferson City, Missouri.

Proposed legislation in Jefferson City could establish special penalties for those who steal packages.

House Bill 464 started moving through the 2021 legislative session for Missouri. This bill would establish the crime of mail theft.

The COVID-19 pandemic moved a lot of daily and holiday shopping online, causing an uptick in package deliveries. Since November 2020, many local residents have shared doorbell video of people making off with packages from front steps.

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Chad Gaddie said these crimes are charged the way a theft from a store shelf my be treated.

“I know a lot of people get Amazon packages taken. Typically those are treated as a regular stealing charge and the severity of the charge typically depends on the value of the item,” Gaddie said. But, should HB 464 pass, “there is no reference to value, if you take mail that belongs to someone else the first time it’s classified as a misdemeanor then the second time you do that it’s classified as an E felony.”

The bill states “mail” means a letter, postal card, package, bag or other sealed article.”

“It does not require the prosecutor to prove and specific kind of value. So if you take something from someone’s porch, you’re going to be prosecuted for it and regardless of if it’s worth $1 or it’s worth $5,000,” he said.

There are federal laws against stealing mail. Currently, Missouri does not have state laws regarding mail explicitly.

Rep. Jerome Barnes, D-Raytown, has sponsored the bill. His district covers parts of Kansas City and Jackson counties. He served in the United States Army for six years and retired from the United States Postal Service.

Morgan Riddell can be reached at morgan.riddell@newspressnow.com