In order to understand the crime of receiving stolen property, one must first understand the general crime of theft. In legal terms, theft is the generic term for crimes in which one person intentionally takes the property of another person, without that person’s permission or consent, and with the intent to convert the property for their own use.
Next, one must understand the differences between the crimes of receiving stolen property and the crime of larceny. The crime of receiving stolen property is the crime of accepting or purchasing items that are known or believed to have been stolen.
Importantly, this crime is separate from the crime of larceny, which is the taking of another person’s property without consent and with the intent to permanently deprive the rightful owner. Thus, an individual that commits larceny steals the piece of property, whereas when an individual commits the crime of receiving stolen property, the property has already been stolen.
How Does Georgia Define the Crime of Theft By Receiving Stolen Property?
In Georgia, a person commits the offense of theft by receiving stolen property when the person receives, disposes of, or retains stolen property that they know or should have known was stolen, unless the property is received, disposed of, or retained with intent to restore the property to the owner. Receiving is defined as acquiring possession or control or lending on the security of the property. Further, Georgia law also states that it is not necessary to first show a conviction of the principal thief to prosecute a person with the crime of theft by receiving stolen property.
Thus, the elements of the crime of theft by receiving stolen property in Georgia are:
- The accused person bought or received the goods;
- At the time the goods were bought or received, the property had been stolen by someone other than the accused person; and
- That at the time of receiving the property, the accused knew or should have known the property had been stolen.
What Must Be Proven to Be Convicted of the Crime of Receiving Stolen Property?
If all of the above criminal elements discussed above are satisfied, the accused individual will likely be charged and convicted of the crime of theft by receiving stolen property. However, in order to be convicted of the crime, the prosecution must prove all of the above elements beyond a reasonable doubt.
However, the prosecution has no burden in first prosecuting the original thief, or even identifying the original thief. The prosecution must only show that the person in possession of the stolen property is not the original thief, and knew or should have known the property was stolen at the time that they acquired the property.
As can be seen, the most essential element of the crime of receiving stolen property is that the accused individual knew or should have known the property was stolen. It is important to note that the prosecution is not required to have the direct testimony of the accused to prove the element concerning knowledge of wrongdoing, but rather the element may also be proved through circumstantial evidence.
Circumstantial evidence can include the accused individual’s conduct and behavior, evidence of the criminal nature of the person whom the property was acquired from, the type of property that was received, the price paid for the property, and even the time of day when the property was received. For example, if an individual acquired 10 high end laptops from another individual at night in a closed store’s parking lot, for one tenth of the retail price of the items, the individual may be convicted of the crime of theft by receiving stolen property.
Once again, the prosecution has the burden of proving all of the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Thus, if the prosecution’s evidence against the accused is only circumstantial, there must be enough evidence to rule out any other explanations other than the accused is guilty of the crime of theft by receiving stolen goods.
What Are the Penalties for Theft by Crime of Receiving Stolen Property in Georgia?
In Georgia the penalty for theft by crime of receiving stolen goods in Georgia may either be a misdemeanor or a felony, dependent on the value of the goods received. When the theft involves property valued at less than $500, the crime of receiving stolen goods will be charged as a misdemeanor. The penalties for a misdemeanor may include a fine of no more than $1,000, a prison sentence of no longer than 12 months in jail, or a combination of both.
When the theft involves property valued at greater than $500, the crime will be charged as a felony, unless the Judge decides to allow for a lesser charge. The penalties for a felony may include fines of greater than $1,000, up to 20 years in prison, or a combination of both. In addition to the criminal charges, an accused individual may also face a civil suit from the rightful owner of the property.
Typically, 20 year prison sentences are reserved for if the stolen property is a vehicle. However, the maximum prison sentence will likely be dependent on the amount involved in the crime. For example, if the individual accused of the crime of theft by receiving stolen property had received over $100,000 worth of high end electronics, then the maximum prison sentence may be sought by the State.
In addition to a lengthy prison sentence, a felony conviction also carries additional penalties, such as making it difficult to find a new job, loss of licensure, loss of the right to possess a firearm, or the loss of the right to vote.
Are There any Legal Defenses for Theft by Crime of Receiving Stolen Property?
Yes, there are many different legal defenses that an accused individual may assert to have the charges against them dropped. The most obvious legal defense is the lack of knowledge of belief that the property acquired was stolen. As noted above, the prosecution must prove each and every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
Therefore, if the accused person is able to cast any doubt that they had knowledge of the stolen nature of the property they received, the case against the accused must be dismissed. For example, if the accused party purchased an item through a local marketplace for a reasonable price, and had no reason to believe the property was stolen, they cannot be charged with the crime of receiving stolen property.
Other legal defenses to receiving stolen property include, but are not limited to:
- Lack of enough circumstantial evidence;
- Incapacity, such as the individual was intoxicated at the time, or otherwise unable to know what they were doing;
- Entrapment, such as another person using overbearing tactics to induce them into committing the crime; and/or
Do I Need An Attorney For Assistance With the Crime of Theft By Receiving Stolen Property?
If you have been accused of the crime of theft by receiving stolen property, it is in your best interest to immediately consult with an experienced and local Georgia lawyer. An experienced and local Georgia criminal defense attorney will be best suited to helping you understand your legal rights and options according to your state’s laws. Additionally, your attorney will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.