Larceny, known as “theft by taking” in Georgia, is the crime of taking property owned by another person. The person who commits this type of theft takes the property without the consent of the property owner. They also take the property with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of their property.
To permanently deprive the owner of their property includes keeping it or selling it. Anyone who buys property that has been acquired in this manner is guilty of receiving stolen property.
The idea behind laws regarding receipt of stolen property is that if a person buys or otherwise takes stolen property from the thief, they are enabling the crime and are guilty of a criminal act themselves.
What Is the Law in Georgia With Regard to Receiving Stolen Property?
Receiving property that has been stolen is a crime in Georgia, where the crime is formally called “theft by receiving stolen property.” A person is guilty of the crime of receiving stolen property when they receive, dispose of, or retain property that the person knows or should know is stolen. Receiving stolen property is a crime unless a person receives, disposes of, or retains the property with the intent to return it to its rightful owner.
A person must possess actual or constructive knowledge that the property was stolen. This means that they either knew or should have known the property was stolen in order to be guilty of this crime.
Georgia criminal law also prohibits the transportation of stolen property. This law is called “theft by bringing stolen property into the state.”
Can I Legally Buy Property in Georgia That Was Stolen From Another State?
It is a crime in Georgia to buy or accept any stolen property, regardless of where the property was originally stolen. So, even if the property was stolen in another state, it is still stolen property in Georgia, and buying or accepting the property is a crime.
For example, in a state reported in Georgia, a suspect was identified as one of a group of people who robbed a pawnshop. The suspect was convicted of theft by receiving property stolen in another state, armed robbery, and a number of other criminal offenses.
The prosecution’s evidence showed that a gold Chevrolet car had been stolen in South Carolina by breaking the locking column on its steering wheel so it could be driven away without a key. This car had been used in the robbery. The alleged perpetrator argued that there was no evidence showing that he knew or should have known that this car was stolen.
The court accepted evidence of the condition of the car, i.e., with the broken locking column, as sufficient evidence that the driver knew it was stolen. Therefore, the perpetrator was convicted on all charges, including that of receiving property stolen in another state.
Another alleged perpetrator in the same case was also found guilty of theft by receiving goods stolen in another state, i.e., a car. The prosecution presented evidence that this alleged perpetrator told the police that he knew his brother had taken a car in another state.
He also admitted that he had used the car with the other robbers in the robbery. In addition, his fingerprints were identified on the car. On appeal, the court ruled that the evidence was more than enough to support a finding of guilt.
Is Buying Stolen Property the Same as Embezzlement in Georgia?
Buying stolen property is not the same as embezzlement. Embezzlement occurs when a person lawfully entrusts funds to another person. Once in possession of the funds, the other person uses the funds for a purpose other than the one that the lawful owner intended. Receiving stolen property involves receiving property that has been acquired illegally. In embezzlement, the original transfer of funds or other property to the perpetrator is completely legal.
Will I Go to Prison for Buying Property That Was Stolen Outside of Georgia?
Whether one goes to prison for theft by receiving property that was stolen in another state depends on the value of the property that was involved in the crime. If the stolen property was valued at $1,500 or less, then the crime is a misdemeanor. At most, it involves time in a county jail as part of its potential punishment.
For any property valued above $1,500, the crime is a felony, and conviction results in a prison sentence unless the judge should reduce the crime to a misdemeanor. The amount of time that someone convicted of a felony may have to serve in prison depends on the value of the stolen property as follows:
- Property with a value of $1,500 to $5,000: One to five years in prison;
- Property with a value of $5,000 – $25,000: One to ten years in prison;
- Property with a value of $25,000 or more: Two to twenty years in prison.
Are There Any Defense to Receiving Property Stolen in Another State in Georgia?
There are several defenses to a charge of receiving property stolen in another state in Georgia, as follows:
- Lack of knowledge that property was stolen: If a person bought property not knowing that it was stolen, they can argue this as a defense. However, the person would have to prove that a reasonable person would not have known that the property was stolen. Proving this might be challenging. If a person buys used property from another person at a very low price, this could indicate to a reasonable person that it is stolen.
- Or if the facts otherwise show that the property was clearly stolen, proving this defense might be difficult;
- Permission to claim the property: If a person took the property with an honest claim of having a right to it is a defense to theft by receiving stolen property. For example, a person might claim that they took a vehicle because the buyer had failed to make payments on their purchase loan;
- Previous conviction of robbery for the same property: An alleged perpetrator might already have been convicted of theft or robbery for the acts. A person cannot be convicted of both robbery or theft and theft by receiving for the same acts;
- Lack of Intent: Theft by receiving is a specific intent crime, which means that the perpetrator must have intended to commit the offense. So, it would be a defense to claim that the alleged perpetrator did not have the specific intent required for conviction;
- Alibi defense: A person can claim that they have been misidentified as the perpetrator. A person might produce a witness who can testify that the person was in a different place and could not have committed the crime. If a jury believes the witness, this can be a complete defense of the crime;
- Property with a value of less than $500: As noted above, whether the crime is charged as a felony or a misdemeanor depends on the value of the property stolen. Therefore, it is important to make sure that the prosecution has correctly valued it. Testimony by the owner concerning the purchase price without any other evidence is not enough to establish that the value of the property is above $500.
- Also, mere evidence of the cost of the property to the owner is not enough to determine whether the offense is punishable as a felony or misdemeanor. A reliable way to establish the value is to present evidence that shows the fair market cash value either at the time and place of the theft or any stage during which the alleged perpetrator received or concealed the property;
- Mere possession of stolen property is not enough to prove the knowledge element: The prosecution must present evidence from which it can be inferred that the perpetrator had the knowledge and the intent required for conviction. Evidence of knowledge combined with possession can be enough for conviction, but mere possession of the property alone is not enough.
Do I Need the Help of a Lawyer for My Receiving Stolen Property Issue in Georgia?
If you have been charged with receiving stolen property, want to consult a Georgia criminal defense lawyer. LegalMatch.com can connect you to an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can review the facts of your case and identify any defenses you might have. They can provide you with the best representation in negotiations with the prosecution and at trial if that should be necessary.