Many people often wonder why mailboxes are federal property. There is actually a careful balance of legal policy that establishes the ownership and property rights of your mailbox. To be sure, the process starts with the resident’s purchase of an up-to-code mailbox. (You can visit usps.com to find out about all the necessary specifications). However, once a mailbox is properly installed and ready for use, it is effectively considered Federal Property.
According to federal law (Title 18, United States Code, Section 1705), it is “a crime to vandalize mailboxes (or to injure, deface or destroy any mail deposited in them). Violators can be fined up to $250,000, or imprisoned for up to three years, for each act of vandalism.” This law puts your mailbox under Federal jurisdiction in order to protect you (the resident) from any harm or vandalism that may occur from a mailbox’s misuse. (Aside: vandalism and even mail theft are rarely prosecuted as federal crimes, but that’s a topic for a separate blog post).
But, that is just the first half of the story.
Once you install your mailbox, and it is ready for the receipt of mail, you effectively lease your mailbox to the federal government for the service of mail delivery. Let’s not forget that, as long as you have an up-to-code mailbox, receiving mail is a free service. Sending mail isn’t free (stamps, shipping, postage, etc). Because you lease your mailbox to the Postal Service, they require that your mailbox meet certain criteria regarding placement, design, and usage in order to maintain your service. If you do not meet these criteria in any way, you break the lease and the Postal Service will no longer use your box for mail delivery.