People say that mailboxes are federal property because, under federal law, mailboxes are in fact the property of the U.S. federal government. Mailboxes are official locations to which mail can be delivered, which makes them protected under federal law.
Mail and mailboxes in the United States are protected under federal law. When mail is left in a person's mailbox, this mail is still technically in the possession of the government until it is retrieved by the lawful recipient. In essence, U.S. citizens are leasing a mailbox from the government even if they purchase and install the mailbox on private property.
Since a mailbox officially belongs to the government and thus falls under U.S. law, tampering with, disabling or otherwise vandalizing a mailbox is illegal under Title 18, United States Code, Section 1705. Those found in violation of this code section can be fined up to $250,000 or sentenced to up to three years in prison for each instance.
Individuals can report any theft or violence against a mailbox directly to the U.S. Postal Service toll-free at 1-877-876-2455 or online at USPS.gov. By keeping a mailbox in good repair and in a safe location, individuals can reduce the risk of vandalism.