Are mailboxes off limits?

When I was a kid, distributing flyers for money, we were told not to put anything in mailboxes because to do so was a Federal Crime. The mailbox (or the space inside) supposedly was owned by the “Postmaster General of the United States”. Of course, any serious infraction was a Federal Crime according to us kids’ popular lore, including shooting our BB guns into the air.
Anyway, is there actually a law prohibiting ordinary citizens from placing stuff inside a mailbox? And does this include mailslot in my front door?
A kid from the storefront church around corner just put a flyer in mine, and I’m thinking of prosecuting the little bugger. A few years in Leavenworth ought to teach them not to park in front of my house while they shout jesus. Free BBQ, indeed.
BBQ this, my saintly friends.
Really, though, is this illegal?
mangeorge (who is, of course, only kidding)

Yeah, it’s illegal (in the U.S.) If they put the appropriate postage on the flyer and deliver it themselves, I believe they are OK though. It’s also illegal to tape a flyer to the side of the mailbox or wedge one between the flag thingie and the mailbox.

Like you, mangeorge, I had a religious solicitation stuck in my mailbox by some little punk kid. Looking around the neighborhood I saw that she had randomly put them on certain mailboxes. The little girl had signed her first and last name but crossed off her last name, probably at the insistance of her parents. I could still make out the last name though and they were listed in the phone book. They lived a couple of blocks away.

The phone call went like this:

Haj: May I please speak with Janie
Father: Janie! Phone call for you.
Janie: Hi
Haj: Hi. Did you leave a message on my mail box?
Janie: Uh. I don’t know. <Hands phone to Mom>
Mom: Hello. What’s the problem?
Haj: Did your daughter leave a note on my mail box?
Mom: Yes. So?
Haj: I want to know why?
Mom: She was concerned.
Mom: <Hangs up the phone>

I’ll never know why they were concerned. The mezzuzah on my door? The deadhead stickers on my truck? My (at the time) long hair?

The next day I went to the local post office to file a complaint. I was informed that what they did was illegal. The woman at the post office was a kindred soul and told me that she would call them and tell them that they commited a crime and they would prosecute on the next offence. In reality they wouldn’t bother to prosecute something like that but she thought it would be fun to put the scare into that family.

If Jesus directed that family to put the note on my mailbox, it was to give them a message, not me.


Yup. my cousin distributed flyers to mailboxes and got a warning call from the Post Office telling him not to do it because it was illegal. Next time you’re in trouble, they said.

OK, a slight highjack but…
Some local company throws a newspaper into my yard once a week. I have not subscribed and I am not interested. I do not want to be bothered having to gather their trash from my yard. Surely this too, must be illegal?

Trespassing or littering perhaps, Khadaji. But those are local matters.

Mailboxes are considered federal property. Title 18, United States Code, Section 1707:

(Emphasis added.)

You could tell that newspaper not to give you a copy, but most likely its delivery person just tosses the paper on everybody’s lawn and probably doesn’t hassle with checking to see who doesn’t want the paper.

However, if you were forceful in your call, you may get more results.

So, are you Merrikuns really telling me that you don’t come home from work in the evening to find in your mailbox absolutely chock full of crap?


Your cousin and hajario (up there) don’t happen to be neighbors, do they?
Not likely, I guess. Just trying to stir up some trouble. :wink:

>> find in your mailbox absolutely chock full of crap?

yes, but it is crap delivered by the post office.

TLD, we’re talking about those “come visit our church!” Xeroxed flyers distributed door-to-door by local churches, or Dominic’s Pizza coupon flyers, or “vote for me!” political candidate flyers, not junk mail, which as Sailor has so kindly pointed out, has actual postage put on it and is actually mailed.

Whoever’s producing the flyers, they’re not allowed to put them in the mailbox–they have to tuck them in your screen door so they can blow away as soon as you open the door.

It’s my impression that here in Oz, pretty much all junk mail comes straight to the house, not through the postal system. We don’t have any laws against people putting whatever bits of paper they like in your mailbox. There are targetted mailouts from companys through the postal system too, but I don’t think the volume is very significant compared to door-junk. Of course, maybe I just think that because I never buy anything, so I don’t go on anyone’s mailing list :slight_smile:

I personally like this system, since it enables me to put up a big NO JUNK sticker on my box, which keeps all unwanted advertising fluff at bay very nicely. If it was mailed, there’d be no way to get away from it, since the Post Office is required to deliver any mail addressed to you, even if you don’t want it

I like my junk mail!

Gives me great weed barrier under all the tan bark we just got delivered.

Hmm. Back in the day when I delivered the pennysavers, I was told I could only put them in the mailboxes after the day’s deliveries.

Let me get this straight.

I go to the hardware store, buy a mailbox with my own money, install it on my personal private property and as soon as I do that it belongs to the feds? Am I understanding that correctly?

What if I want my Dominos coupons delivered in such a way that they don’t fly away as soon as I open my front gate- can I buy a second mailbox and put a sign on it that says “expressly for Dominos Pizza Flyers”? Or just a general catch-all box that says “Expressly for non-USPS mail delivery”.

Attrayant, sure you can have your own pizza fliers box. That’s what newspaper subscribers have. Haven’t you ever seen those mailbox-looking recepticles (usually plastic, stamped with “Pokunk Tribune,” or somesuch) that get mounted near the curbside mailboxes in rural and suburban burgs?


It makes sense that they would tell you that. Most people will just remove the flyers. If you were to put them in before the delivery, the mail carrier could notice that there was something in the box that wasn’t delivered.

It’s still illegal. They are just trying to make it less likely that they will be caught.

Attrayant, if you have some indication on it that that’s not your USPS mailbox, it’s not “Property used by the Postal Service”, and if you do have another mailbox for the USPS, then the extra one is not a “hindrance or detriment to the public service”. I think that the point is, if you try to make off with your neighbor’s mailbox, you’re in big trouble.

In Soviet Russia, mailbox owns you!

I totally agree with Attrayant on this. Phone conversation:

Friend: I am nearly finished with the book.

Me: Could you bring it by the house. If I am not home, just put it in the mailbox, which I made out of wood cut from a tree that I grew from a seedling without any help from the US government at all.

Thought Police: (breaking in from where they are tapping the line) Hold it right there! We own that mailbox, and if you’re not careful, we will own all “your” other stuff and you too!
Me: (goddamn police state)

Aah, right. I think that’s the difference. Because Australia Post doesn’t make any USPS-style claims on our letter boxes, the term “junk mail” here has come to mean the hand-delivered flyers. There is an official “unaddressed delivery” service here, but that’s usually chosen by large companies wanting to reach large numbers of customers. It’s an unstamped “postage paid” type of arrangement (cheaper than the standard stamped rate). The postmen hate it because it means delivering to every single address on their beat. Most smaller outfits find it cheaper and more convenient to pay schoolkids or pensioners to do the same job unofficially (and legally).

As an employee of Australia Post, I find the incredible powers of the USPS quite fascinating. Sure, Australia Post has certain statutory powers not available to other delivery or courier companies, but aside from in-house security officers with powers similar to those in, say, department stores, any offences or mail theft are dealt with by the police. None of this Postal Inspector stuff.