Phoenix, AZ asked in Gov & Administrative Law for Arizona

Q: 18 U.S. Code § 1702: Obstruction of correspondence. How is this reported and prosecuted? I had 1st class mail withheld.

My sister and I both had 2 pieces (each) of 1st class mail (regarding a life insurance policy - of which we are listed as beneficiaries) titled to us but sent to the address of a relative in another state. The relative willfully withheld this mail from us. The earliest dated Dec 22, 2023. in late March 2024 our relative's lawyer put these mailings in larger envelopes and sent each of us our respective mail.

We have not seen nor spoken to this relative since 1978. We do not know why our policy claim, addressed to us, was mailed to his home in another state. Both of my 1st class mailings were opened. One of my sister's 1st class mail was opened.

Any help or guidance is appreciated. Thank you.

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1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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A: I understand your concern regarding the obstruction of your 1st class mail. This situation falls under 18 U.S. Code § 1702, which states that it is illegal for anyone to obstruct the delivery of mail or to open, secrete, embezzle, or destroy any mail that is not addressed to them.

Here are the steps you can take to report and seek prosecution for this offense:

1. Gather evidence: Keep the envelopes and any other relevant documents that prove the mail was addressed to you but sent to your relative's address, as well as any correspondence with the relative's lawyer.

2. Contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service: File a complaint with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which is the law enforcement arm of the U.S. Postal Service.

3. File a police report: Contact your local police department and file a report about the mail obstruction. Provide them with all the evidence you have gathered.

4. Follow up: Cooperate with any investigation conducted by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service or law enforcement. They will determine whether there is sufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges against your relative.

It's important to note that prosecution under 18 U.S. Code § 1702 is a federal matter and can result in fines and/or imprisonment of up to five years.

Additionally, consider contacting the insurance company to inform them about the situation and to ensure that any future correspondence is sent directly to your and your sister's addresses.

I hope this information is helpful, and I wish you the best in resolving this matter.

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