A theft by taking in Georgia, which is also known as larceny in other states, is a serious theft offense. An individual commits this crime when they take another individual’s property without their permission or legal authority. To be a theft by taking, the individual who takes the property must have the intent to deprive the owner of their property forever when the property is taken.
What Does it Mean to “Receive Stolen Property”?
Receiving stolen property means to purchase or accept property which an individual knows or believes was obtained by theft. This crime is different from extortion, robbery, or general theft.
Receiving stolen property was made a crime so that thieves would not be added or rewarded by other individuals purchasing the stolen property or concealing the stolen property. It is also a crime to deter theft in general.
Receiving stolen property can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. In order to convict a defendant of receiving stolen property, the prosecution is required to show:
- The property was, in fact, stolen. In order to convict a defendant of receipt of stolen property, the property must actually be stolen. This means that law enforcement cannot set up a defendant to receive the stolen property simply to arrest them;
- Knowledge. The defendant must have known or should have known that the property was stolen;
- Intent to the defraud owner. The defendant had intent to deprive the owner of their property, such as by:
- keeping it;
- selling it; or
- giving it away to another party.
In some jurisdictions, the prosecution is required to show that a defendant intended to aid a thief by purchasing or accepting the stolen property. States may also distinguish between receiving and possessing stolen property.
What if I Did Not Know That the Property Was Stolen?
The key difference between receiving and possessing stolen property is the time at which an individual discovers property is stolen. If the individual who receives the property was aware it was stolen at the time they acquired it, then the individual is guilty.
If the individual discovers that the property is stolen after accepting it, but they still intend to keep the property or use it for a dishonest purpose, such as selling it to another individual, then the defendant is guilty of possessing stolen property.
Can I be Convicted of Receiving Stolen Property if I Planned to Return the Items?
No, if an individual accepts or purchases stolen property with the intent to return it back to the lawful owner, they are not guilty of receiving stolen property. This is due to the lack of intent to benefit from receiving the stolen property.
What are the Possible Consequences of Receiving Stolen Property?
In states that have wobbler offenses, the receipt of stolen property is in this category. This means that the crime can be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony.
The level of the charge for receipt of stolen property depends on the value of the property which was allegedly stolen. If the property has a high value, the defendant will likely be charged with a felony. If the value of the property is low, the defendant will likely be charged with a misdemeanor.
If an individual is found guilty of receiving stolen property, they court may sentence them to the following or a combination thereof:
- Fines, the amount will depend on the value of the property; and
Can I Get in Trouble for Buying Something That Was Stolen Via a Theft by Taking?
Yes, an individual can get into trouble for purchasing something which was stolen via theft by taking. Any individual who purchases property that was stolen as a result of a theft by taking has committed the crime of theft by receiving stolen property.
It is illegal to accept or purchase any property which was originally stolen. In order to be guilty of the crime, however, the defendant must have either known or should have known that the property was stolen. If the individual had no reason to know that the property was stolen, which may include being told it was not, then they are not guilty of this offense.
Is it Illegal to Purchase Stolen Property from Another State?
Yes, an individual is guilty of the offense of theft by receiving stolen property in another state if they do any of the following with property from another state:
- Dispose of; or
As previously noted, the defendant must either have known or should have known that the property was stolen and was stolen from another state.
When is it Legal to Purchase or Accept Stolen Property in Georgia?
The only circumstance in which it is completely legal to accept or purchase stolen property from out of state is when the individual has the intent to return it to the true owner. This applies even when the individual who purchases the property knows for a fact that it was stolen.
Is Theft by Receiving Property Stolen in Another State a Misdemeanor in Georgia?
Yes, it is a misdemeanor to receive stolen property from another state in Georgia if that property is valued at $1,500 or less. If the stolen property is valued at more than $1,500, the crime is a felony. If, however, the property value causes the crime to be charged as a felony, the court has the ability to lower the crime to a misdemeanor.
What is the Criminal Sentence for a Misdemeanor in Georgia?
In Georgia, if an individual is convicted of a misdemeanor offense, they may face:
- Up to one year in a county jail;
- Criminal fines of up to $1,000; and
- A combination of jail time and criminal fines.
What are Possible Defenses against an Accusation of Receiving Stolen Property?
There are several possible defenses which may be available to the charge of receiving stolen property. The success of a defense will depend upon the laws of the jurisdiction. Defenses to theft crimes generally include:
- Insufficient evidence, which means the prosecution cannot prove a necessary fact or element of the crime;
- Entrapment, which occurs when a government entity compels an individual to commit a crime they otherwise would not have;
- Insanity, which allows a defendant to claim they were legally insane at the time of the offense or during trial;
- Incapacity, which differs from insanity but still involves the mental capacity of the defendant. For example, if a defendant is an adult with the educational capacity of a minor, they may be considered incapacitated; and
- Intoxication. It is important to note that voluntary intoxication is almost never a defense to any crime. However, involuntary intoxication may serve as a defense.
Should I Contact a Lawyer?
It is to your benefit to contact a Georgia lawyer if you are facing any type of criminal charges, especially theft by taking or receiving stolen property. It is important to contact a Georgia criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.
Your lawyer can review your case and charges, determine if there are available defenses, and represent you in court. In addition, your attorney may be able to negotiate a plea bargain or lesser charges, depending on the facts of your case. A conviction can have serious consequences for you and your loved ones, so it is important to have an attorney to help protect your rights.