Use of the United States Postal Service (USPS) to deliver communications and shipments is subject to a bevy of rules and regulations. While these rules and regulations come from a variety of different sources, one of the primary sources of statutory authority is 39 U.S.C. § 3001.
Under 39 U.S.C. § 3001, individuals and businesses can face steep penalties for offenses ranging from shipping hazardous substances to failing to include mandatory disclosures with sweepstakes and promotions. As a result, when facing an investigation under 39 U.S.C. § 3001, one of the first critical steps is to identify the specific allegation (or, more likely, allegations) involved. At Oberheiden, P.C., our federal defense team (which includes several former federal prosecutors) has extensive experience in matters under 39 U.S.C. § 3001; and, if you or your business is being targeted by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service Investigations, its Criminal Investigations Service Center, or any other federal law enforcement authority for one or more mail-related offenses, we can use this experience to protect you.
What is the Scope of 39 U.S.C. § 3001?
39 U.S.C. § 3001 outlines 14 separate categories of what the statute calls, nonmailable matter. Sending any nonmailable matter in violation of the statute has the potential to trigger severe civil or criminal penalties, and individuals and businesses targeted in investigations under 39 U.S.C. § 3001 will often face prosecution for mail fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1341), wire fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1343), and various other related offenses as well. Due to the fact that 39 U.S.C. § 3001 has been amended several times since its original enactment in 1970, portions of the statute are now known by various short titles. If you have been contacted by federal authorities with regard to alleged violations of any of the following, you may be the target of an investigation under 39 U.S.C. § 3001:
- Deceptive Mail Prevention and Enforcement Act of 2000
- Deceptive Mailings Prevention Act of 1990
- Drug and Household Substance Mailing Act of 1990
- Mail Order Consumer Protection Amendments of 1983
Within the 14 broad categories of nonmailable matter under 39 U.S.C. § 3001, some of the most-common violations alleged under the statute involve the preparation, depositing, or receipt of:
1. Illegal Sweepstakes, Lottery, and Contest Information
Sweepstakes, lotteries, and other types of content are subject to various laws and rules when conducted through the mail or online. For mailed solicitations, companies must strictly comply with the provisions of Section (k) of 39 U.S.C. § 3001, which constitutes a portion of the Deceptive Mail Prevention and Enforcement Act of 2000. Among other requirements, in order to be compliant with 39 U.S.C. § 3001, sweepstakes, lottery, or other contest solicitation must:
- State that no purchase is necessary to enter the sweepstakes, lottery, or contest;
- State that making a purchase will not improve an individual’s chances of winning;
- Disclose the address of the business that sponsored the contest or mailed the solicitation;
- Include rules which disclose the estimated odds of winning each price, the quantity and estimated retail value of each price, the nature of each prize, and whether any prize payments are to be made over time; and,
- Not falsely represent that the recipient of the solicitation has already won a prize.
2. Fraudulent and Misleading Solicitations
Various provisions of 39 U.S.C. § 3001 falling under the Deceptive Mailings Prevention Act of 1990, the Drug and Household Substance Mailing Act of 1990, and the Mail Order Consumer Protection Amendments of 1983 prohibit the use of the mail to distribute fraudulent or misleading solicitations. Items prohibited under 39 U.S.C. § 3001 include:
- Fraudulent mail order schemes for health care services, medications, fitness products, cosmetics, anti-aging products, sexual wellness products, and other products or services;
- Solicitations for goods or services that appear to be invoices, bills, or statements of account for goods or services previously purchased (whether or not the recipient previously purchased goods or services from the sender);
- Fraudulent and misleading advertisements for seminars, courses, free offerings, and other types of events (including advertisements that omit material information); and,
- Other forms of fraudulent and misleading solicitations for the purchase of goods or services, whether or not the goods or services are actually offered for sale.
3. Government Look-Alike Mail
Section (h) of 39 U.S.C. § 3001 makes it a federal offense to send any mail, which reasonably could be interpreted or construed as implying any Federal Government connection, approval, or endorsement through the use of a seal, insignia, reference to the Postmaster-General, citation to a Federal statute, name of a Federal agency, department, commission, or program, trade or brand name, or any other term or symbol. This section of the statute is known as the Deceptive Mailings Prevention Act of 1990. The only exceptions are for mailings that:
- Have an official government connection, approval, or endorsement;
- Include an adequate disclaimer of any connection, approval, or endorsement from the federal government; or,
- Have been purchased or requested by the recipient.
4. Hazardous Material
Section (n) of 39 U.S.C. § 3001 makes it illegal to deposit any hazardous material with the USPS. Hazardous material is defined in 49 U.S.C. § 5103(a), and includes any material that is:
- Compressed gas
What Should You Do if You are Being Investigated Under 39 U.S.C. § 3001?
For most of our clients, learning that they are being targeted in a federal investigation as a result of using the mail comes as a complete surprise. The prohibitions in 39 U.S.C. § 3001 are extremely specific, and many of them are not well-known. Learning of a federal investigation can be stressful as well, and cooperating out of fear and making other costly mistakes can have drastic consequences. If you have been contacted by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service Investigations, its Criminal Investigations Service Center, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), or any other federal law enforcement authority, you should:
- Not respond to the letter immediately. The letter you received probably says that you should contact the authority that sent it immediately. While you may need to respond promptly, at this point, any communications should be conducted by your legal counsel on your behalf. You could be facing the potential for civil or even criminal charges, and you need to be absolutely certain that you do not say anything that could put your freedom in jeopardy.
- Not discuss the case with anyone else. When you receive a letter from the federal government, you may be tempted to discuss it will colleagues, friends, or family members. Have they received a similar letter? Do they have any idea what this is about? Is it legitimate, or is it some type of scam? While these are all logical questions, you should not discuss the investigation with anyone except the attorneys on your defense team.
- Engage in defense counsel as soon as possible. To avoid these and other mistakes, you need to begin working with experienced defense counsel. By experienced, we mean a defense attorney (or, preferably, a defense team) that has specific experience in federal cases involving allegations under 39 U.S.C. § 3001. These cases are both highly-unique and highly-complex; and, to put yourself on a level playing field with federal agents and prosecutors, you need a team of proven federal defense attorneys on your side.
5 Reasons to Choose Oberheiden, P.C.
If you or your business is being investigated under 31 U.S.C. § 3001, you need experienced legal representation. So, why should you choose Oberheiden, P.C.?
1. The Government Will Not Tell You About Its Investigation.
During your investigation, the government will only tell you what it wants you to know. Our attorneys can gather the information needed in order to assert a successful defense, and we can do so quickly while simultaneously helping you take steps to protect yourself.
2. You Could Be Facing Multiple Charges Under 39 U.S.C. § 3001 and Other Statutes.
If you are being targeted under 39 U.S.C. § 3001, there is a very good chance that you are being targeted under 18 U.S.C. § 1341, 18 U.S.C. § 1343, and various other federal statutes as well. Our attorneys have successfully represented clients in cases involving these and other allegations, and we can use this experience to your advantage.
3. The Government May Be Seeking Information from Other Witnesses, Targets, and Co-Conspirators.
You may not be the only person who received a letter. If the government is also seeking to collect information from other witnesses, targets, or alleged co-conspirators, you need to factor this into your defense.
4. Our Firm’s Practice Focuses Exclusively on Federal Cases.
Our firm’s practice focuses exclusively on federal cases. Our practice is nationwide in scope, and we have successfully represented individuals and businesses at all stages from investigation through sentencing and appeal.
5. Our Defense Attorneys Have Centuries of Combined Experience on Both Sides of Federal 6. Investigations.
Several of our defense attorneys are former federal prosecutors with the DOJ. Together, our attorneys have centuries of combined experience in high-stakes federal cases.
Contact Us to Speak with a Federal Defense Lawyer in Confidence
To discuss your 39 U.S.C. § 3001 investigations with a member of our federal defense team, please contact us to arrange a free and confidential initial case assessment. You can reach us 24/7, so call 214-251-4238 or tell us how to reach you online now.
Photo by: Pope Moysuh on Unsplash
Dr. Nick Oberheiden is a national litigation and trial criminal defense attorney who practices exclusively in the area of federal law.