Swap meet dealers, secondhand dealers, and sellers of used cars and other vehicles all have a statutory obligation to verify ownership of any articles received for resale. However, even ordinary people can be prosecuted for receiving stolen property. For example, a friend asks you to hold onto a piece of jewelry for a while, where the jewelry was actually stolen or you place an ad on eBay to sell vintage designer handbags that “fell off a truck”.
Participating in these activities with even a suspicion that the property was not rightfully owned is enough to substantiate a prosecution for receiving stolen property. Knowledge that the property was not rightfully owned can be inferred from the circumstances, including your criminal record, if any.
Receiving stolen property is considered a “wobbler.” A wobbler means that the crime can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the value of the stolen goods, your criminal record, if any, and other surrounding circumstances. However, remember that the prosecution must prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
Receiving stolen property can be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony. If the property received is worth more than $950, or the person receiving the property is legally required to register as a sex offender under California’s Megan’s Law, or if the person receiving the property has a prior criminal conviction for a serious or violent crime, the prosecutor can seek a felony charge.
A conviction for a misdemeanor charge can bring a sentence:
A felony conviction for receiving stolen property can bring a sentence:
- Up to three years in state prison which is served in the county jail
Either a misdemeanor or felony conviction can also mean imposition of fines, or in lieu of jail, extended probation.
Here is where a savvy Orange County stolen property criminal defense lawyer can make a difference. Knowing when and how to negotiate with prosecutors to secure lesser charges or lesser sentences is the mark of an experienced and effective criminal defense attorney.
Remember that the prosecutor must prove each element of the crime beyond reasonable doubt. Therefore, legal defenses to such a charge include one or more of these possibilities, depending on the facts and evidence of your case:
- You did not know that the goods were taken
- You had innocent intent
- You intended to return the property
- You intended to deliver the property to law enforcement
- You did not actually receive any of the stolen items
Receiving the property by accident, mistake, or without your knowledge would negate any intent.
In addition to charging receipt of stolen property, prosecutors often charge defendants with:
Petty Theft PC 484/488: taking property valued less than $950. Penalties range up to 6 months in jail with fines up to $1,000.
Grand Larceny PC 487: taking property valued more than $950. This charge is also a wobbler, meaning it can be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony. If a weapon is involved, the crime will be charged as a felony. Penalties for a misdemeanor include up to one year in jail. Penalties for a felony charge mean 16 months up to 3 years in state prison.
Extortion PC 518: taking property through force or fear. This is also a wobbler offense. A misdemeanor conviction means up to one year in jail. A felony charge brings penalties from 16 months to three years in state prison. Fines can also be imposed, up to $10,000 for a felony extortion conviction.
Other Theft Offenses: offenses including theft by larceny, false pretenses, trick and embezzlement amongst other theft crimes. $950 once again is the magic number differentiating a misdemeanor from a felony charge.