Caught in Possession of Stolen Property in CA?
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Caught in Possession of Stolen Property in CA?

By San Diego Attorney on March 7, 2022

Possession of stolen property can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on how much the property is worth. But either way, you could be looking at jail time if convicted.

You don’t need to be in direct physical possession of an item to be charged with possession of stolen property. These laws can be complicated, so you don’t want to talk to the police about any matters related to possibly stolen material until you have spoken to an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Items That May Be Stolen

Sellers who seem perfectly legitimate may be dealing in stolen property. Small items that are worth a lot of money are frequently stolen, including:

  • Cash
  • Jewelry
  • Electronics
  • Prescription drugs
  • Designer clothes and handbags

How Can You Tell If an Item Was Stolen?

It can be difficult to be sure if an item was stolen. Sometimes stolen items are even sold at regular businesses with a brick-and-mortar address. The following clues may indicate that an item was stolen.

  • The seller uses a false ID
  • It’s being sold on the grounds where it was stolen
  • It’s being offered at far below market price
  • It’s being sold outside legal business circles
  • The seller makes an effort to hide the item
  • The serial numbers are worn down

How Prosecutors Prove Possession of Stolen Property

According to Section 496 of the California Penal Code, it is illegal to buy, sell, receive, or conceal from the owner or withhold property that belongs to another person. If police apprehend someone who is in possession of stolen property, they may be charged with theft or possession of stolen property, but they cannot be charged for both violations for the same item.

You cannot be prosecuted for accidentally or inadvertently receiving stolen property. To convict you, prosecutors must prove:

  • You actually received or accepted someone else’s property.
  • You knew it was stolen.
  • The item was actually stolen when you accepted it.

You don’t need to take direct physical possession of an item to be charged with possession of stolen property. For example, if you knowingly give someone permission to keep stolen property in your garage, you are in legal possession of the that property.

Penalties for Possession of Stolen Property

In California, possession of stolen property worth less than $950 is charged as a misdemeanor. Penalties include a maximum fine of $1000 and up to six months in jail.

Possession of stolen items valued at more than $950 is considered a “wobbler” offense in California. Prosecutors may decide to prosecute these cases either as a misdemeanor or a felony. Penalties for felony receipt of stolen material include a maximum fine of $10,000 and up to three years in jail.

Courts in California determine the value of stolen items by using the fair market value, which is the highest price the property could have reasonably sold for when it was stolen. Courts will also order the convicted person to pay restitution to the victim of the crime.

Charged With a Property Crime?

A criminal conviction can lead to jail time, and it can also impact your immigration status and prevent you from obtaining a professional license. At jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys, we only handle California criminal cases.

If you’ve been charged with theft or possession of stolen property, call (760) 630-2000 for a FREE consultation. We take action right away to protect your rights.

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Posted in: Criminal Defense

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