Ask the Chief: You can't keep packages not addressed to you
"Ask The Chief" allows readers access to useful information about law enforcement issues in Red Wing. This communication tool has been developed to enhance community policing efforts by providing residents and visitors with the opportunity to ask questions about local laws, programs and the department in general.
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Q: I received a package in the mail that had my address, but the previous homeowner's name on it. My friend stated that it is OK to keep it as the package was misdelivered, is that right?
A: No, that is not correct; your friend is possibly confusing a reference to state and federal law regarding unordered merchandise, which in some situations may be treated like an "unconditional gift." The difference is that your question states the package is addressed to someone else whereas for the unordered merchandise rule to be in effect, the package will have your name on it.
For more information on unordered merchandise, refer to the Minnesota Attorney General's website listed in the reference section below.
I recommend that you contact the delivery company and let them know that the package was misdelivered and needs to be picked up.
Opening or keeping a letter or package that is addressed to someone else is a misdemeanor crime under Minnesota Statute 609.795, Letter, Telegram or Package Opening. "Knowing that the actor does not have the consent of either the sender or the addressee intentionally opens any sealed letter, telegram, or package addressed to another" and may be reported in the jurisdiction where the letter/package was sent OR received.
Letters should be marked "return to sender" or "Not at this address" and returned to the post office or delivery company.
1. The Office of the Minnesota Attorney General, Keith Ellison, located online at: https://www.ag.state.mn.us/consumer/publications/UnorderedMerchandise.asp
2. Minnesota Statute 609.795, Letter, Telegram or Package. Located online at: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/cite/609.795