The legality of deterring mailbox baseball

On a recent (rerun) episode of CSI, part of the plot involved a homeowner who, tired of having his mailbox destroyed by teens playing mailbox baseball, installs a mailbox filled solid with concrete. The result is that the next vandal to strike the mailbox with a bat (from a moving car) suffers severe injuries to his arm and shoulder, and the driver of the car ends up crashing and killing both himself and the injured mailbox hitter.

On the show, the homeowner was charged with (IIRC) negligent homicide or something like that, but of course that’s a TV show. In the real world, what would/could the homeowner be charged with? I am aware that man traps that employ deadly force are illegal in the US, but what about a completely passive thing like a concrete-filled mailbox?

Add one more layer of ambiguity here: suppose that instead of filling the mailbox with concrete (which renders it useless for its original purpose and makes it obvious that it’s intended to foil vandals), the homeowner merely makes a super-strong, indestructible mailbox, with an I-beam post and a box made of 1/2" steel to render it impervious-to-damage-but-still-useful-as-a-mailbox. If a vandal injures himself while trying to destroy such a mailbox, can the homeowner somehow be held liable for criminal charges or civil damages?

Previous thread on the exact episode.

Not sure about the legality but, when I was a kid, my parents got tired of having our mailboxes destroyed. My dad worked at a steel fabrication plant so he had the guys make him a mailbox out of 1/4 inch stainless steel. We never had any trouble out of it after that. The mailbox was there until they demolished the house (~ 20 years later).

Just one anecdote, but we never had any legal issues nor anyone even saying there might be some. Both the mailman and the homeowner knew about it and they never said a word.

A few years back in Alma, AR a kid died smashing mailboxes. They had a length of pipe out the window and were driving around smashing mailboxes. Someone had built a mailbox out of concrete to look like something golf themed, and if I remember correctly, featured rebar and a bowling ball dimpled with a drill press to look like a golf ball. No charges were filed that I know of.

The question is whether serious bodily harm or death was reasonably foreseeable, the same as if it were a booby trap. If so, then there would be a plausible charge of some kind, perhaps of involuntary manslaughter or negligent homicide, depending on how homicide law in that particular state was structured.

I dare say that bodily harm is reasonably foreseeable in this case. However, the harm only happens because you’ve made an unusually strong mailbox; it’s not as if you dug a pit in your yard and lined it with punjee sticks.

Is reasonably foreseeable bodily harm enough by itself? What if somebody whacks an oak tree in my yard, and the tree is stronger than he thought, resulting in injury?

Criminal charges aside, I’m sure that a lawsuit would be in the offing.

Did you make the oak tree stronger because you knew that someone was going to whack it with a bat? Did you know that the batwhacker would be under the mistaken belief that the tree would buckle easily? Is that person’s belief mistaken precisely because you switched out the tree?

My solution was to put a regular size mailbox inside a much larger “rural” mailbox, filling the void with cement. This was mounted on a 12 foot long 4" diameter iron pipe driven about 8 feet into the ground with a cement footing, and filled with rebar and cement.

My security cameras have twice captured the intial whack and rebound into the car window of a teen-wielded bat. Smashed windows on both vehicles.

One camera angle catches the tag of departing vehicles, and another gives the “big picture” of the entire yard and street, plus neighbors yards, etc.

With the first, I simply gave the tape to the postal inspectors, but didn’t have to on the second.
Angry with smashing their own window, they came back later that night, crossed the road and tried to mow down my box. It was a terrible sound, and it destroyed the poor child’s mom’s Camry!

When the cops arrived, all the kids explained that a deer startled them, requiring an off-road excursion to save everyone’s life. A brief examination of 3 camera angles disproved their claim.

effin kids…

The question is, at what point does it cease to be a durable mailbox that needn’t be replaced regularly, and becomes a man-trap.

In the CSI case, from the prior thread, it appears he removes the real mailbox and replaces it with a false mailbox. This is presumably to lure in baseballers and subject them to injury. That seems rather more dicey than replacing your mailbox with one made of 1/4" steel.

My dad had one made from heavy steel, welded to a truck driveshaft that was cemented into the ground. Pretty much need a bulldozer to take that mailbox down.

That is some funny stuff. Wish I could have seen the video. Think those morons learned their lesson?

Not that we’re looking for suggestions, but two that I’ve seen are to set the mailbox on a hinge that swings in the direction of traffic locked with a latch so that when they hit it all they do is pull the latch out of the wood and the other was to mount the mailbox on a pipe and set a smaller pipe in the ground so the batters do nothing but cause it to spin around.

This is, I think, the key question. A solid concrete-filled mailbox would appear to have no utility beyond a man-trap, and you put yourself in legal peril by setting it up.

A 1/4" steel mailbox, which might well be functionally identical to the man-trap in its resistance to being hit, is still useful as a mailbox, and you can plausibly, in fact truthfully, claim that you wanted a stronger mailbox because your previous ones have been destroyed. Any injury to the punks is merely incidental, not the main purpose.

The mailbox described above, with concrete between the inner and outer mailboxes, falls somewhere in between, and your legal peril probably depends on which side of the bed the judge got out of that morning.

The mere existence of a mailbox cannot be interpreted as a lure.

Agreed. It could be just ornamental. It’s not as if the thing has a sign on it saying “please try to hit me with a baseball bat while driving in a car”.

Those aren’t the facts of the case. The mailbox owner has the knowledge that it’s very likely that someone is going to hit the mailbox with a bat. Indeed, he changes the mailbox precisely due to this knowledge.

This made me fantasize about a mailbox “quintain” – a medieval device that, when struck imperfectly with a lance by a practicing horseman, spins around a heavy arm or sandbag and knocks him from his horse.

Wouldn’t pass muster like a passive device might, but it would be funny.

One of my sister’s neighbors has their mailbox set into a freestanding brick pillar, about 2’ square, and 5 or so feet tall. No one in their right mind would try to smash it with a baseball bat (it’s not a common occurrence in her neighborhood anyway). This seems like an ideal solution, if it’s possible. Make it an unattractive a target, and you don’t have to worry about the consequences of someone trying to vandalize it.

On the other hand, a teenage girl accidentally crashed her car into my sister’s normal-type mailbox, destroying it and denting her car (nobody was hurt). If she’d smashed into the brick pillar-box instead, the outcome might not have been so good.

Well, then, what IS the purpose of dragging out a concrete filled mailbox every day to install on the post after you remove the real mailbox?

I can’t see any realistic purpose that does not include the false mailbox getting hit with a baseball bat.
Edited to add, the item placed on the mailbox post is NOT a mailbox. It is a block of concrete disguised as a mailbox.

A mailbox in and of itself is not a lure, regardless of whether it’s filled with concrete or not. To make something into a lure implies that you are adding features that make it an attractive target, and that’s not the case here: the concrete-filled mailbox looks, from the outside, just like any other.

And again, consider the alternate case of a permanently installed mailbox made of indestructible plate steel. It functions as a normal mailbox, but is impervious to baseball bats. Is this a lure? Is the owner liable if someone hurts themselves while trying to destroy his indestructible mailbox?