It is a crime to accept or purchase any property that you believe or know was obtained illegally, such as through theft, under general receiving stolen property laws. However, receiving stolen property is its own separate crime and thus should not be confused with similar criminal acts of theft, robbery, or extortion.
Prosecutors typically must prove the following elements in order to convict someone for receiving stolen property:
- Before the property was received, it must have been stolen;
- It must be received by someone other than the thief who allegedly stole it;
- It is necessary for the person who receives stolen property to have actual knowledge or should have known that it is stolen; and
- It must have been the receiver’s intention to deprive the rightful owner of their property permanently (e.g., by keeping it, hiding it, selling it, giving it away).
Suppose you are facing charges for receiving stolen property in Georgia. In that case, you should consider hiring a local criminal defense attorney immediately for more information about the relevant laws and for representation in criminal court.
If you are charged with a felony offense, it is especially important to hire an attorney since a conviction can result in prison time.
What If I Did Not Know That the Property Was Stolen?
When did the receiver discover that the property was stolen during the transaction? When answering this question, most convictions will be based on whether the property was in your possession when you received it or while you were in possession of it when you received it.
When the receiver knew they were receiving stolen property when they accepted it from the thief, they would likely be convicted if the prosecutor could prove all of the elements of the crime. Suppose a receiver discovers that stolen property has been received and continues to use it dishonestly, such as by selling it to an unsuspecting buyer. In that case, they can also be found guilty of possessing stolen property.
The key to proving this crime is knowledge. Furthermore, if the receiver genuinely did not know that the property in question was stolen, it would be much harder for the prosecutor to secure a conviction.
Can I Be Convicted of Receiving Stolen Property If I Planned to Return the Items?
Receivers who intend to return stolen items to their owners are generally not convicted of receiving stolen property. The prosecutor would not be able to prove that the receiver possessed the intent to deprive the rightful owner of their property and benefit from receiving the stolen items, which is one of the elements required to prove this crime.
It may be necessary for the defendant to prove that either they had no knowledge that the property in question was stolen or that they had no intent to conceal that it belonged to someone else, depending on the facts of the case. The affirmative defense can be useful if the defendant has substantial evidence to deny knowledge or intent.
What Are the Possible Consequences of Receiving Stolen Property?
Legal penalties vary depending on the facts of the case and whether the receiver is charged with a felony or a misdemeanor.
Receiving stolen property, however, is generally considered a “wobbler” offense. The crime can either be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor. The value of the stolen property often determines whether the crime should be charged as a felony or misdemeanor.
If the stolen property is worth a lot of money, the receiver will likely be charged with a felony. In contrast, if the stolen property is inexpensive, then the defendant will probably be charged with a misdemeanor.
Regardless of what the receiver is charged with, they may be subject to the following legal punishments:
- Serving a prison sentence;
- Paying restitution to any victims harmed by the receiver’s actions;
- Having to abide by probation guidelines (e.g., curfew, drug tests, treatment, etc.); or
- Having to pay criminal monetary fines (depending on the value of the property in question).
A first-time offender is usually only required to pay criminal fines. For example, if the offender is found guilty of this crime as a misdemeanor, they will likely be fined no more than $1,000. On the other hand, if the offender were charged and convicted of this crime as a felony offense, they would likely be fined $1,000 or more.
Additionally, repeat offenders may face harsher punishments and may be charged with felony crimes if they are considered to be repeat offenders rather than first-time offenders. First-time offenders usually receive less severe punishments so that they can demonstrate that they are capable of redeeming themselves.
Is It Illegal for Me to Take Stolen Property Across State Lines?
The National Stolen Property Act (NSPA) is a federal law that makes it unlawful to receive, sell, or transport any stolen property across state lines or outside the county. The state of Georgia also prohibits the transportation of stolen property. This law is called “theft by bringing stolen property into the state.”
What Is Considered Stolen Property in Georgia?
Stolen property is any property that someone takes from its lawful owner with the intent never to give it back to the owner.
How Do Georgians Deal With Stolen Property Brought Across State Lines?
The crime of theft is committed when someone brings stolen property into Georgia that was stolen in another state. Furthermore, the person must have known or been in a position to know that the property was stolen when they transported it into Georgia.
If I Purchase the Stolen Property Once it Reaches Georgia, Can I Get in Trouble?
Yes. However, a person will not be charged under this law. Instead, they will be charged with theft by receiving stolen property from another state. Whenever a person receives and retains/disposes of property that is stolen in another state, they are guilty of theft by receiving stolen property.
If I Bring Stolen Property Into the State and Am Convicted of Theft, Am I Likely to Be Convicted as a Felon?
A person convicted of this crime may end up as a convicted felon. A person who commits this crime can be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony. The crime is usually a felony if the stolen property is worth more than $1,500. Otherwise, the crime is a misdemeanor. A felony charge may also be reduced to a misdemeanor if the judge decides to lower the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor.
How Much Prison Time Could I Get If I Am Convicted of the Felony Version of This Crime?
The prison time a person will receive for a felony conviction depends entirely on the value of the stolen property. Accordingly, the punishment for a felony charge based on property value is as follows:
- $25,000 or more: Two to 20 years in prison
- $5,000 to $25,000: One to 10 years in prison
- $1,500 to $5,000: One to five years in prison
Are Lawyers Really Necessary?
Legal representation is essential to any good defense strategy in felony criminal cases. You should contact a Georgia criminal lawyer immediately to determine the best way to fight your felony theft charge.