Have you been charged with receiving stolen property? San Diego Criminal Attorney can help you.

As one of the top criminal defense firms, San Diego Criminal Attorney has a proven track record of success in all types of criminal cases. We are readily capable to defend our clients in whatever situation they may find themselves. Among the many types of criminal cases we are prepared to handle, our attorneys can help you, or anyone you know, in cases involving receiving stolen property.

What Does Receiving Stolen Property Charge Mean?

Receiving stolen property is a different and more complex offense from a simple theft charge; however, it is just as serious of an offense. Under California Penal Code 496(a), receiving stolen property cases involve anyone who has purchased or received property that has been stolen or obtained through means considered to be theft or extortion. This also involves anyone who knows that the property was stolen and hides, or aids in the hiding of, the stolen property.

Simply put, a receiving stolen property charge means that you may have knowingly:

  • Purchased,
  • Received,
  • Concealed,
  • Sold, or
  • Withheld

Property that has been stolen, extorted, embezzled, or obtained through any other illegal means from its original owner.

Examples:

  1. Phil has stolen a priceless artwork from a gallery. As his friend, John hides it in his attic.
  2. As an electronic salesman, Bob receives a crateful of stolen video games. Although he knows the property may have been obtained illegally, Bob decides to sell the video games to customers.
  3. Amanda wants to buy new jewelry. She goes to Josh, a seller she knows to be a jewelry thief, for a good deal. Amanda purchases stolen necklaces from Josh.

The examples above are just some of the situations that can lead to a receiving stolen property charge under California law. John aids Phil in the concealing of stolen property. Bob knowingly sells stolen property. Amanda knowingly purchases stolen property. With the knowledge of the property's stolen nature, all of the characters above are complicit in a serious crime and can face major penalties under California law.

Why Am I Charged with Receiving Stolen Property?

As defined under California Penal Code Section 496(a), there are multiple ways in which you can be charged with receiving stolen property. As stated above, this does not necessarily mean that the defendant has stolen these items. In these cases, the defendant has either:

  1. Received or purchased property that has been stolen,
  2. Sold, or aided in selling, the stolen property; or
  3. Concealed, or aided in concealing, the stolen property.

Receiving Possession and Control of Stolen Property: You may be charged with receiving stolen property if you have received stolen property physically, or by organizing the delivery or transactions of the stolen property. This can include knowingly purchasing stolen property, acquiring the stolen property through other means, or by knowing of property stolen by another person. If you were aware of the stolen nature of the property you have purchased or received, you can be charged with receiving stolen property.

Examples:

  • Mark purchased a stolen ring from a known jewelry thief.
  • Ash accepted money that was stolen by his friend.

Selling Stolen Property: If you arranged for the purchase, or helped in the arrangement, of stolen property, you can be charge with the receipt of stolen property. Also, if you have made any profit from a transaction dealing with stolen property, then you can still be charged with a receiving stolen property. Though you may not have physically come into contact with the property, if you were involved in any way with the selling of the property you can be charged. This means that any involvement in the selling of stolen property can lead to a receiving stolen property offense under California law. 

Examples:

  • A swap meet vendor sold stolen electronics to customers.
  • An agent for an art dealer helped to sell artworks she knew were stolen property.

Concealing Stolen Property: If you concealed, or withheld the knowledge of, stolen property, then you can be charged with the receipt of stolen property. If someone else asks you to hide stolen property and you willingly agree, then you can be charged with the receipt of stolen property. Any involvement in the concealing of stolen property, no matter how minimal, can lead to a receiving stolen property offense. This means that you intended to continue the deprivation of property from the owner permanently and that you are complicit in a serious crime. 

Examples:

  • Your friend asked if he could put a stolen artwork in your basement, and you agreed.
  • Upon learning that you possessed stolen property, you continued to hide it away rather than report or return it.

Business Related Charges: As indicated under California Penal Code Section 496(b), these cases can commonly involve swap meet vendors, collectors, or any seller who commonly does business in the transaction of personal property or merchandise on a regular basis (this also includes related agents, employees, or representatives to such businesses). The employer in any business may also face charges if these crimes are committed by an employee, or any other person involved in the same business. Due to the nature of these businesses, these types of cases are quite common.

If the you have committed any of these actions, then you can be charged with receiving stolen property under California law.

What are the Penalties for Receiving Stolen Property?

As outlined under California Penal Code Section 496, receiving stolen property can lead to serious punishment. The minimum penalty for a receiving stolen property is maximum one (1) year in county jail; however, the penalty for each case can vary depending on the circumstances around each situation. Depending on the defendant’s criminal history and the value of the stolen property, as well as other factors, the defendant can face either a misdemeanor or felony.

Misdemeanor: If convicted of the charge, the defendant can face at maximum one (1) year in county jail; however, if the property is under the value of $950, then it will be a misdemeanor and will only lead to up to one (1) year of imprisonment in a county jail, a maximum fine of $1,000, or a combination of both.

Felony: If the value of the stolen property exceeds the amount of $950, then the charge may lead to a felony. As defined under California Penal Code Section 1170(h), the punishment in this case may lead to sixteen (16) months, two (2) years, or three (3) years of imprisonment in state prison, a maximum fine of $10,000, or a combination of both. However, as a “wobbler” case under California Penal Code Section 17(c), the court can determine if this is a felony or misdemeanor depending on the circumstances of the case and the defendant's criminal history if the value of the stolen property is more than $950.

Penalty for Swap Meet Vendors, Sellers, or Collectors: As defined under the California Penal Code Section 496(b) and the Business and Professions Code Section 21661, If you are a swap meet vendor, seller, collector, or involved in a business that deals with the transaction of personal property, then you may face different but similar penalties from receiving stolen property. If the value of the stolen property exceeds $950, it is considered a felony and the defendant can be sentence to up to 3 years in state prison. If the value of the stolen property is less than $950, the crime is a misdemeanor and the defendant can be sentence to up to 6 months in county jail.

Civil Consequences: Under California Penal Code Section 496(c), the victim in these cases may ask for damages up to three times the value of the stolen property from the defendant considering the cost of the suit and attorney fees.

Related Offenses and Penalties

Along with a receiving stolen property charge, there are related offenses that can also lead to serious penalties under California Law for the defendant or anyone else involved in the case. Some related offenses can be filed in connection to a receiving stolen property, or as a different type of offense. These include: grand theft, petty theft, embezzlement, extortion, and theft/appropriation of lost property.

Grand Theft and Petty Theft: These are common offense in which the defendant has stolen property from another person, or owner. Under California Penal Code Section 487, a grand theft charge arises when the defendant has stolen property exceeding the value of $950. Under Section 488, a petty theft charge comes from a theft in all other cases, or less than $950.

The defendant cannot be charged with both a receiving stolen property charge and a grand/petty theft charge. However, a grand/petty theft charge can lead to a receiving stolen property if it is unclear if the defendant was the individual who had stolen the property in the first place—it was only found to be in their possession.

The penalties for these cases depend on the circumstance of each situation. However, if it is a misdemeanor, the defendant can face up to one (1) year in county jail. If it is a felony, the defendant can face up to three (3) years in state prison. Additional penalties may be added depending on the stolen property and its value.

Embezzlement: Under California Penal Code Section 503, embezzlement is defined as the “fraudulent misappropriation” of property by the individual to whom it has been entrusted. These types of cases usually involved individuals in positions by which they had access to other people’s property or money.

Such a charge faces the same punishment as a grand/petty theft charge.

Extortion: Under California Penal Code Section 518, extortion is the obtaining of property from another person through the use of force, fear, or threat to receive consent to do so. Even though the defendant may not have actually physically injured the victim, if they intended to, or threatened them verbally this can count as extortion.

A receiving stolen property charge can be filed in connection with extortion if the stolen property was obtained by a use of force, fear, or threat.

Theft / Appropriation of Lost Property: Under California Penal Code Section 495, it is crime to keep lost property you have found if circumstances allowed you to return it to its original owner, and if you did not make an effort to find the original owner. This is different than receiving stolen property since the crime revolves around the act of not properly, or without an effort, returning lost property; thus, it becomes an actual theft.

This is a charge considered to be as serious as a grand/petty theft charge, and can lead to a similar penalty.

What Needs to be Proven in Receiving Stolen Property Cases?

In order to be guilty on charges of receiving stolen property, the court needs to prove certain points in all similar case. These key points are: 

Knowledge of Stolen Property: The defendant needs to have known that the property he received was stolen or acquired through other suspicious means. Just the knowledge of such an act is enough to convict the defendant of receiving stolen property. This can be thought of as being an accomplice to a crime. This can be found if the defendant knew about the stolen nature of the property when receiving, purchasing, selling, or maintaining control of it.

Continuation of Criminal Intent: The court must also prove that the defendant intended to deprive the owner of the property. By receiving the stolen property, the defendant must have intended to continue the thievery enacted, and maintain control and possession of the property.  This can include an action constituting concealing, not reporting, or any other means to maintain control of the stolen property.

If these points can be proven in the court of law, the defendant can be found guilty of receiving stolen property and face the respective penalties to this offense.

What are the Legal Defenses for Receiving Stolen Property?

A receiving stolen property charge can lead to a misdemeanor, or even, a felony in some cases. If you are charged, then you need to build a defense that can clear these charges. 

With these kinds of cases, there are common defenses that can be used to clear these charges. These include: lack of knowledge that the received property was stolen, lack of knowledge that the property you possessed was stolen, and innocent intent. These defenses, or any other, can be used to prove that you were not involved in the act of receiving stolen property.

Lack of Knowledge that the Property You Received was Stolen: If you were unaware that the property you have received was stolen, then you cannot be charged with the receipt of stolen property. If this is the case, the court cannot prove that you had knowledge of the stolen nature of the property.

Example:

  • You purchased antique furniture from a well-known antique dealer. It turns out the furniture is stolen; however, you did not know this when making the purchase.

Lack of Knowledge that the Property You Possessed was Stolen: If you were unaware that the property you possessed and maintained control of was stolen, then you cannot be charged with the receipt of stolen property. This can include an unawareness that another person had placed the stolen property in your possession. If this is the case, the court cannot prove that had knowledge of the stolen nature of the property.

Example:

  • A stash of stolen money is found in your car by law enforcement. However, you did not know the stolen property was there or how it got there.

Innocent Intent: If you did have knowledge of the stolen nature of the property but intended on returning or reporting it to law enforcement, then you cannot be charged with the receipt of stolen property. This shows that you had innocent intent. If this is the case, the court cannot prove that you had the intent to deprive the owner of the property.

Example:

  • After Phil asks to hide a stolen artwork in your attic, you decide to return the work to the gallery and report the incident to law enforcement.

Remember: If the court cannot prove that you had knowledge of the stolen nature of the property or if you did not intend to deprive the owner of the property permanently, then you cannot be charged with receiving stolen property.

Finding a Criminal Attorney Near Me Who Can Help

Receiving stolen property is a serious offense under California law, and can lead to major penalties.

If you find yourself facing these, or any other criminal offenses, our San Diego Criminal Lawyer is here to help. As a team of highly knowledgeable and talented attorneys, we are here to assist you, or anyone you may know, with these charges. Please do not hesitate to contact us at 819-880-5474 to reach our highly qualified and friendly staff. As one of the top-rated criminal attorney firms in the San Diego area, we promise to lend a helping hand to anyone that needs it and we will help you succeed.