A common theft crime in California is the offense of receiving stolen property. According California Penal Code Section 495, you can be convicted of this crime if:

  • You bought or received property that has been stolen
  • That you knew or had reason to know was stolen
  • Or if you concealed, sold, withheld, gave away or helped to conceal, sell, withhold or give away any property from the owner with the intent to deprive the owner of his or her property

Stolen property is any property that has been illegally obtained by theft, burglary, robbery, extortion, false pretenses or embezzlement.

Receiving Stolen Property

You can be found to have “received” stolen property once you have control or possession of the stolen goods. If someone tells you that the property is stolen and stores it in your garage, you have effectively received the property. In fact, both you and the person who brought you the stolen items may be found guilty of receiving stolen property.

You are also under a legal duty to inform the owner or law enforcement once you know or should know that the property is stolen.

Knowledge of the Property as Stolen

You can be shown to have had knowledge that the property was stolen by any number of factors in which police or the prosecution may draw inferences:

  • Serial numbers or other identifying marks were erased
  • The price of the item is far below market or retail price
  • You were told it was stolen
  • Only cash was acceptable to the seller

Degrees of the Crime

Under California law, you can be charged with either a misdemeanor or felony. Generally, if the stolen property has a value of less than $950, it is a misdemeanor. If the value exceeds $950, it is a felony. You could be charged with a felony regardless if you have a prior criminal history.

Civil Consequences

Pursuant to California Penal Code 496(c), the victim can bring a lawsuit against you in civil court and receive up to 3 times the market value of the property stolen.

Related Charges

Charges related to receiving stolen property may include:

  • Carjacking

This is a violent offense in which the perpetrator steals a car by force or the threat of imminent physical harm.

  • Gang enhancements

If the stolen property offense is a felony and was taken for the benefit of a gang, you could receive a mandatory prison sentence along with a sentence for receiving stolen property. You need not be a gang member or be the one who was responsible for committing the underlying felony to receive an enhancement from 5 years up to 25 years to life.

Defenses to Receiving Stolen Property

You do have a number of defenses available to you:

Claim of right

You may have believed you had a right to the property. For example, if someone was trying to sell you property that was stolen from you.

Mistake of Fact

If you had a legitimate belief that the item was not stolen or had a good faith belief that what the seller told you was true, you may have a defense that a reasonable person would have believed the item was not stolen.

Innocent intent

If you intended to return the property to the owner or police when you received it, it is not a crime. It is a crime if your intent to return it came after you illegally received it.

Lack of possession

If you lacked the knowledge that you possessed stolen property, then you have committed no crime. This could happen if someone tries to hide the stolen goods in your home or car.

You bought it from someone in a bar

This is not a real defense but a common excuse that nearly every criminal defense attorney has heard. If anything, this shows that you should have known the property was stolen since a reasonable person would have inquired about its origin.

Immigration Consequences

Under federal immigration law, if you are an alien or permanent resident and you commit a crime of moral turpitude such as receiving stolen property, you may have serious immigration consequences. In some cases, you could face potential deportation and not be eligible for cancellation of removal relief.

Call the Law Offices of Ramiro J. Lluis

Facing a charge of receiving stolen property or a related offense can result in serious prison time and have long range or permanent adverse consequences on your life. If you have been charged with receiving stolen property, call the Law Offices of Ramiro J. Lluis today for a free, confidential initial consultation at (213) 687-4412.