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I go to my local post office nearly every day to drop off packages for online purchases. A couple of years ago, I had a van full and it would have taken many trips to bring them inside. I asked a clerk if there was an easier way. The supervisor came out and told me to drive around back. I came around back to the fenced (not gated) employee area. No one met me. So, I walked in. He pointed me to the empty carts. I took one, filled it up and brought it back inside and asked him where to put the cart. I handed him my paperwork and left.

This was much easier for me. So, I started doing it every trip (4-6 times per week). The postal clerks all know me, see me and interact with me in the back room. I go to the far corner where the supervisor has his desk to hand him the paperwork. It seems like a decent arrangement. Makes it easier for me. No lines. And easier for them as I move the packages right to their sorting area.

Although it is clear to me that I am allowed there, I still feel a bit odd for being in the clearly labeled "employees only" area. I would think that at any time, they could revoke this permission, but do not since it is mutually beneficial.

I had some "Facebook lawyers" tell me that one day, I will get arrested. While I guess that could happen, I find it far more likely that if a postal police officer happened to be there one day, he'd question me, question the supervisor and either tell me that I cannot (or can) continue to access this area.

Does the long-standing policy of allowing my access grant me some-sort of (revocable) license to continue until told otherwise?

  • 6
    The fact that you had been given verbal authorization to do so, and had done so on a regular basis, would be your defense. The supervisior, if giving you access was a violation of some policy, could get in trouble with his chain of command for doing so. – aidanh010 May 23 at 20:13
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    While this document doesn't directly mention law, one might conclude from it that an overly zealous postal police officer who wasn't aware of your regular activity might suspect the worst case scenario: fbiic.gov/public/2008/oct/PSCD_Postal_MailPackageHandling.pdf. It's not clear whether they would arrest you on this basis alone, though, and I suspect they wouldn't unless there were an active threat. – called2voyage May 24 at 17:26
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    I think the others have answered fairly well, but here's one more consideration: I'm pretty sure most (if not all) post offices large enough to have a back area like that have security cameras up the wazoo. If anyone questions your presence and the supervisor tries to deny it, they need only look back several days on camera footage to show you in there, interacting with the supervisor like no big deal, to prove that the supervisor was aware of and condoned your behavior. – Doktor J May 24 at 19:49
  • Usually when someone is "trespassing" in broad daylight, but obviously has no criminal intent, has a reason to be there, the trespass could be reasonably considered an honest mistake, and the person politely and peaceably responds to the owner, it is very unlikely they will be arrested. The owner will ask nicely that you leave, if not, the police will come and ask nicely that you leave. They're not going to arrest you unless you actually make a scene or try to steal things. – Consis May 25 at 3:18
97

Trespassing requires that you be on someone else's property without their permission. The supervisor has explicitly given you permission, so it's not possible for you to trespass. You are correct that someone with the proper authority could revoke this permission at any time, at which point you would have to leave or be guilty of trespassing. The only way this situation could constitute trespassing is if they revoke your permission and you ignore them. You can't trespass somewhere that the property owner has allowed you to be and you observe the rules they have set (which may be implied) for you being there.

  • 9
    If you're still concerned after reading this, jot down a note of the next couple of weeks' visits and which postal workers you interact with on each visit. That way, if something weird happens, like a brand new supervisor arrives and decides to be a jerk and asserts that you never had permission, you have material evidence of your prior long-standing and widely understood permission. – Dancrumb May 22 at 2:21
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    "The supervisor has explicitly given you permission, so it's not possible for you to trespass." – I would say that the supervisor has explicitly given permission only the first time. All the other times, he has given implicit permission, by not throwing the OP out. Certainly, giving implicit permission every single time creates a reasonable expectation that the permission will be given every time (until) revoked, and on the basis of this reasonable expectation, the OP has grounds to enter the premises without having been given permission in advance. – Jörg W Mittag May 22 at 6:01
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    Let me re-phrase that a bit: I would argue that the fact that you were given implicit permission every single time translates into a situation where you can reasonably expect that the fact that your permission wasn't revoked the last time, automatically means that you also have implicit prior permission to enter the premises the next time, until and unless this permission is explicitly revoked. – Jörg W Mittag May 22 at 6:37
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    Are you sure that there are no USPS specific laws which apply here in addition to the general trespassing law? AFAIK there are some odd laws from the 1900s to protect the integrity of the USPS which are technically still in force. – Philipp May 22 at 14:10
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    @Philipp If there are such laws, I suspect JimmyB's answer is likely to be correct: the supervisor was violating them by allowing the OP into the back room. – Barmar May 22 at 15:29
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If they tell you to leave and you do not it is trespassing, but all you have to do is say OK and leave if they ask you to go. Anyone complaining about that is immature.

15

if a postal police officer happened to be there one day, he'd [...] question the supervisor

I'd say the post office people, and esp. the supervisor, are at much higher risk than you. If, by some policy or law or whatever, what you do was actually prohibited, then the supervisor and staff would likely get into trouble for allowing you there because it would be their responsibility to prevent you getting there. Their job's might be at risk, if not more.

Assuming that the supervisor and staff know that any bad consequences would likely be worse for them than for you, I think you can rest assured that they judge the "risk" to be pretty much non-existent, likely because the "Employees only" policy is generally not (supposed to be) enforced strictly.

However, you and they may or may not be on difficult terrain if/when something bad happens:

Scenario #1: While shuffling your packages around the not-for-you area you trip/slip and get injured.

Scenario #2: After you have been there in the morning, in the evening before closing time someone at the post office notices that a couple of packages have disappeared.

2

https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/25/11.411

25 CFR § 11.411 - Criminal trespass.

(a) A person commits an offense if, knowing that he or she is not licensed or privileged to do so, he or she enters or surreptitiously remains in any building or occupied structure. An offense under this subsection is a misdemeanor if it is committed in a dwelling at night. Otherwise it is a petty misdemeanor.

(b) A person commits an offense if, knowing that he or she is not licensed or privileged to do so, he or she enters or remains in any place as to which notice against trespass is given by:

(1) Actual communication to the actor; or

(2) Posting in a manner prescribed by law or reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders; or

(3) Fencing or other enclosure manifestly designed to exclude intruders.

(c) An offense under this section constitutes a petty misdemeanor if the offender defies an order to leave personally communicated to him or her by the owner of the premises or other authorized person. Otherwise it is a violation.

[emphasis added]

Trespassing, at least as defined by this statute (I suppose there could be some other statute dealing with trespassing), is not a strict liability offense. To be guilty of trespassing, you must merely not have permission, but know that you don't have permission. The very fact that you are asking whether this is trespass means that it is not; one of the elements is that you know that you are not allowed to be there. Now, there is the practical issue that even if you don't know, if a prosecutor can convince a jury that you did, then you can still be convicted. Also, a judge would probably interpret "knowing" as "having a reasonable basis for believing", so you can't get away with claiming radical skepticism "Well, can we really know anything for certain?"

In this case, you don't know that you aren't permitted there, and you have a reasonable basis for thinking that you might be permitted. And even if a LEO thinks that you are guilty of trespassing, unless you are doing it at night it's a petty misdemeanor, and it's likely that for a petty misdemeanor, you would get a citation rather than being arrested.

P.S. Just in case this isn't clear, I'm responding to this being tagged "federal-law". Whether there are state laws that might apply is not addressed by this answer.

1

Although it is clear to me that I am allowed there, I still feel a bit odd for being in the clearly labeled "employees only" area. I would think that at any time, they could revoke this permission, but do not since it is mutually beneficial.

Consider this-- many private loading docks and maintenance passages are located in "employees only" areas of properties, but that does not stop free passage of (non-employee) vendors and contractors authorized to enter and use that area.

In your case, you were authorized by the supervisor to be there the first time and permission is renewed each time you show up and are not asked to leave. Consider yourself a vendor.

I had some "Facebook lawyers" tell me that one day, I will get arrested.

Though not wrong, this much is a bit overstated and depends on context. Even if you're found lurking around a reasonably public area of an active military installation (outside front gate, inside visitors' center, etc.), they'll generally question you and ask you to leave first. But subsequent violations (or being found in a secured area) constitute trespass and can warrant arrest or worse.

1

The "Trespassing?" question from the subject has already been answered, but to answer the actual question in your post:

"Does the long-standing policy of allowing my access grant me some-sort of (revocable) license to continue until told otherwise?"

I think the answer is "No."

The regulation you're likely violating isn't Trespassing, but 39 CFR § 232.1(d):

Conformity with signs and directions. All persons in and on property shall comply with official signs of a prohibitory or directory nature, and with the directions of security force personnel or other authorized individuals.

The "Employees Only" signs are "official signs of a prohibitory ... nature." Now, the first time you did this, you were complying with the directions of the supervisor, who is presumably an "authorized individual." However, on your subsequent visits, I don't see any way you could legally claim that an absence of objection is the same as a "direction."

That said, I can't imagine you'd ever actually be charged with anything since the employees obviously are okay with you being there. However, if you were, there would be a possibility of jail time. 39 CFR § 232.1(p)(2) describes the penalty as

Whoever shall be found guilty of violating the rules and regulations in this section while on property under the charge and control of the Postal Service is subject to a fine as provided in 18 U.S.C. 3571 or imprisonment of not more than 30 days, or both.

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