Despite the popularity of online news sources, many people still rely on newspapers to update themselves on current events. Newspapers are also still distributed by hand by delivery personnel.
But while newspapers still exist in hard copies, it also makes them easier to steal.
You might think it’s a funny and harmless prank to steal your neighbor’s newspapers every time they arrive. It wouldn’t hurt them if they can get their news elsewhere, right?
However, your antics could get you into trouble with the law, and you will potentially face penalties if convicted of newspaper theft.
State law on newspaper theft
Per Maryland law, it’s illegal for anyone to steal property to deprive the original owner of the item or hide the item from the owner. This includes newspapers, whether they’re distributed on a complimentary (free of charge) or compensatory (as part of a subscription) basis.
Additionally, it’s against the law for anyone to prevent another from reading the newspapers. This might apply in cases where a person tries to block newspaper deliveries to their neighbors because the papers contain a scandalous story about the person.
It’s also illegal to claim newspapers mistakenly delivered to you, especially if you know that the papers belong to someone else and continue receiving them through deception.
Anyone violating the state’s newspaper theft laws can be charged with a criminal misdemeanor. On conviction, the individual must serve up to 60 days in prison and must pay a maximum fine of $500.
To summarize, taking your neighbor’s newspapers without consent and for whatever reason can land you with criminal charges. Remember these rules the next time you come across unclaimed papers so you don’t accidentally take them and incriminate yourself.