Receiving Stolen Property

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What Is Receiving Stolen Property?

It is a crime to purchase or accept property that you know or believe was obtained through theft.  The crime is separate from robbery, extortion, or theft.  Receiving stolen property is a crime in order to deter people from aiding or rewarding thieves by buying stolen property, concealing stolen property, and to deter theft in general.  Receiving stolen property may be a misdemeanor or felony.

In Order to Be Convicted of this Crime, the Prosecution Must Show 

In some states, the prosecution must show that you intended to aid the thief by purchasing or accepting the stolen property.  Some states also differentiate between receiving and possessing stolen property.

What If I Did Not Know That the Property Was Stolen?

The key factor between receiving and possessing stolen property is the timing of the knowledge that it was stolen. If the person receiving the property knew it was stolen at the time of acquisition, then the person is guilty. If the person discovered the property was stolen after accepting it, but still intends to keep it or use it for a dishonest purpose (such as selling it to someone else), then the person is guilty of possessing stolen property.

What Are the Possible Consequences of Receiving Stolen Property?

Receipt of stolen property is categorized as a "wobbler" meaning that the charge can be a felony or misdemeanor. A charge for a receipt of stolen property charge depends on the value of the property at issue. If the property has a high value, the defendant would be charged a felony. If the property value is low, the defendant would be charged as a misdemeanor. If you are found guilty, the court may do any or all of the following: 

Are There Any Defenses to Accusations of Receiving Stolen Property?

Successful prosecution of receiving stolen property rests on the factors stated above: (1) that the property was stolen, (2) that you were aware it was stolen and (3)  that you intended to deprive the owner of the property. Generally, if you can disprove one of the factors listed, than the charges will not stick. One defense is that you intended to return the property to the owner or the police. You accept that the property was stolen and that you were aware it was stolen, but you never had the intent to deprive the owner of the property.

The prosecutor also has the burden of proving that you knew it was stolen. In most states, the standard of proof is that of a reasonable person. If you can prove that any other reasonable person would not have known that the property was stolen, then claiming that you had no knowledge the property was stolen would be a defense to the crime of receiving stolen property.

What Can You Do if You are Accused of Receiving Stolen Property?

A charge of receipt of stolen property can sometimes present some complex legal challenges. If you are accused of receiving stolen property you should speak to a criminal defense lawyer immediately to learn more about your rights, your defenses, and the complicated legal system.

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Last Modified: 11-30-2016 01:30 PM PST

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