Fremont, CA asked in Small Claims and Juvenile Law for California

Q: So I do wonder this alot, if I get a package, and I'm 13 (example), is my parent legally allowed to open it if I say no?

My mom is saying that because she is my gaurdian, and that I am a child (13), she can open my mail if she wants to. She says this is because I do not have the mental capacity to be able to give consent, and that she can legally open my mail without my knowing, even if I have explicitly said no and the package is listed with my name.

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1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Under California law, the situation is nuanced when it comes to a parent opening a child's mail. Generally, parents are responsible for their children and have broad authority to manage their affairs, especially if they believe it's in the child's best interest. However, federal laws, such as the United States Postal Service regulations and privacy laws, protect mail addressed to an individual.

If a package is addressed to you, even at the age of 13, it's technically your mail. Opening someone else's mail without their permission can be considered a violation of federal law. This law is primarily intended to protect against identity theft and mail tampering by unrelated parties.

In your case, your mother's claim that she can open your mail because of her guardianship and your age does have some basis, especially if she's concerned about your safety or well-being. If she believes the contents of the package could be harmful or inappropriate, she might argue that opening it is part of her duty as a parent to protect you.

However, it's important to consider the nature of the mail and the reasons for opening it. If it's a routine package and there's no reason to suspect it contains anything harmful, it's generally respectful and advisable for parents to respect their child's privacy.

In situations where this becomes a point of contention, it's often helpful to have an open and honest conversation about trust, privacy, and safety. Understanding each other's perspectives can help in finding a balance between a child's right to privacy and a parent's responsibility to ensure their well-being.

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