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Mailbox Mishaps: What You Can and Cannot Put in a Mailbox

What You Can and Cannot Put in a Mailbox

We’ve all been there. You’re rushing to get your bill payments in the mail on time and you realize you don’t have any stamps.

In a panic, you stuff the envelopes into the mailbox and hope for the best. But is it actually legal to put something in a mailbox without a stamp? Here’s what you need to know before you drop your next letter in the mail.

Can I Put Something in a Mailbox Without a Stamp?

The simple answer is no, you cannot put something in a mailbox without a stamp. According to the United States Postal Service (USPS), putting something in a mailbox without sufficient postage is considered stealing mail. The penalty for stealing mail is a fine of up to $5,000 and up to five years imprisonment.

However, there is one exception to this rule. If you have less than 24 hours until your mail would normally be picked up, you can drop it off at your local post office with the proper amount of postage. The USPS will then make sure it gets delivered on time.

Can I Put Something in a Mailbox That Won’t Fit?

If an item won’t fit in your mailbox, you can leave it in front of the mailbox as long as it doesn’t block access to the box or interfere with leaf collection or snow removal.

The USPS states that if an item is too big for your mailbox and is placed next to it, postal workers are still allowed to pick it up as long as they can do so without having to get out of their vehicles.

However, if an item is too big or heavy for postal workers to lift safely, they will leave a notice in your mailbox telling you that you need to go to the post office to pick up your package.

In this case, it’s best to just bring the package directly to the post office so you don’t have to wait for another delivery attempt.

It’s Also Illegal to Put Certain Other Items in Mailboxes

In addition to advertisement materials, there are other items that you are not allowed to put in someone else’s mailbox. These include items that are flammable, poisonous, corrosive, or otherwise hazardous; live animals; perishable goods; and obscene material.

Again, this is not an exhaustive list, so it’s always best to check with your local post office before mailing anything.


Next time you’re wondering if you can get away with putting something in your mailbox without a stamp or if an oversized package will still be delivered, remember these tips from the USPS.

Stealing mail is a serious offense punishable by up to five years in prison, so make sure whatever you put in your mailbox has enough postage for delivery. And if an item won’t fit or is too heavy for postal workers to lift, they may leave a notice telling you to come pick it up at the post office.

To avoid this inconvenience, just take large packages directly to the post office instead of trying to leave them in your mailbox.