Receipt of Stolen Property - What If I Didn't Know?

The deal you found for those electronics seemed too good to be true and you didn't ask any questions. Instead you simply paid the cash and took the items home. Next thing you know, the police are contacting you about your new items. The deal was in fact too good to be true. According to California Penal Code 496, the charge of receipt of stolen property can be either a misdemeanor or a felony and can carry fines or imprisonment, or both.

But what if you claim to not have known the property was stolen? If you truly didn't know that the goods were stolen, a lawyer can help you get those charges dropped. In order to find you guilty of the charges, the police have to prove three facts –

  1. The property was stolen
  2. You received the property
  3. You knew the property was stolen.

Without proving all three of those facts, there is no case. Property is considered stolen if it is obtained through petty or grand theft, burglary, robbery, or embezzlement. Once the police prove it is stolen, they must prove that you received the property. Possession of the stolen item does not mean that it has to be on your physical person at the time. Instead, it means that you have to be in control of the item. For example, the stolen item is in a self-storage room and you have the key to the door. This would institute possession of the item.

The last step is for them to prove that you knew it was stolen. This is a bit harder, since you can claim that you simply did not know. But there are factors the police take into consideration about that claim. The factors they consider are –

  • You helped to conceal the property
  • The price of the property was well below the value of the item
  • Cash was the only payment accepted, with no written receipt given
  • Any identifying marks, such as serial codes or VIN were removed

If these facts can be proven, there is a chance that the police can establish that you knowingly received stolen goods. However, your lawyer can put forth several legal defenses on your behalf.

Two such defenses are: (1) mistake of fact and (2) right to possess the item. Essentially the two legal defenses can show that you did in fact believe that you were purchasing an item from the owner of the property, or that the person had an item that already belonged to you. In either of these cases, you can be found not guilty of receiving stolen property. Not knowing that you actually possessed stolen property, such as when someone leaves something at your house or places stolen goods in your vehicle without your knowledge, can also cause the charges to be dropped.

The best course of action if you face charges of receipt of stolen goods is to contact a lawyer. If you live in Temecula, Murrieta, Menifee, Wildomar, Perris, Hemet, Lake Elsinore, Banning, Corona, Winchester or Riverside and need legal help, the Law Office of Nic Cocis can help you. You can contact us for a free and confidential consultation. We would be happy to help you with your legal issues.

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