San Diego Receipt of Stolen Property Attorneys
With the growing popularity of resale websites such as eBay, and the fact that reputable sites such as Amazon are allowing third-party sellers to provide goods to customers, it seems that anyone can buy anything nowadays. Most of these buyers do not take the time to ask to see the original receipt, or where the item came from, and that can land you in some pretty serious trouble.
According to California Penal Code 496, individuals found in possession of stolen property can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. Either charge can result in fine, imprisonment, or both.
But what happens when the recipient is not aware that the goods were stolen? That matter becomes a bit more complicated.
The burden of proof, or the obligation of finding and presenting evidence that proves a case, lies with the police in cases of stolen property. They must be able to prove that the property was stolen, that the individual in question received the property, and that the individual knew the property was stolen. Without all three of these conditions being met, there is no crime and a criminal defense attorney can help get the case thrown out of court.
But anyone can say that they simply did not know that the item was stolen, and many do. In order to separate fact from fiction, there are some factors the police will take into consideration.
- Did the individual help conceal the property? For instance, if someone purchased a car and kept it in their friend’s garage instead of their own, that may indicate that they knew it was stolen and wanted to ensure it was not on their property in case of an investigation.
- Was the property priced much lower than it is worth? The price the recipient paid for the property will also be assessed; if that price was much lower than the fair market value of the item, that may indicate that the recipient knew it was stolen. Similar conclusions could be made if the item was paid for in cash.
- Were identifying marks removed? If identifying marks, such as a VIN on a vehicle, have been removed, that is often all the police need to prove that the recipient did in fact know that an item was stolen. But that does not mean that the recipient will automatically be found guilty.
Under the California Penal Code, the law is very specific about which individuals can be charged with engaging in activity that constitutes buying and receiving stolen property. They can include:
- Swap meet vendors, as defined under the California Business and Professions Code.
- Those that are part of a business that deals in or collects merchandise or personal property.
- Agents, employees, and representatives hired to buy and receive property of value.
To be convicted under the law, a prosecutor must show that these individuals knew the property was stolen when they received it. Or, it must be proven that they concealed, sold, or withheld the property from its rightful owner (or that they aided someone else in any of these activities).
The value of the property will also be a factor when penalties for the alleged crime are considered, according to the penal code in California. Those convicted of a felony can face up to three years in a county jail in addition to costly fines associated with damages and court-related costs. If the value of the property is less than $950, then an individual can be charged with a misdemeanor and up to one year in a county jail and fines. This is what’s known as a “wobbler” offense, where you can face a misdemeanor or a felony, based on the seriousness of the crime you are being accused of.
Businesses such as pawn shops just want to earn an honest living for themselves. The last thing they want to deal with is being caught up in accusations of knowingly moving or profiting from stolen property. There are precautions they can take to protect themselves, and these include:
- Tracking serial numbers of items taken into their shop.
- Keeping an accurate, verified record of the sellers’ contact information.
- Being cooperative and establishing trust with law enforcement during an investigation.
Other businesses who deal with reselling items can protect themselves from charges of receiving stolen property by ensuring that serial numbers are not scratched from valuable items and that there is no suspicious activity surrounding a transaction.
There are two main legal defenses to being found in possession of stolen property, even if the police are saying that you knew it was stolen. Those are mistake of fact, and right to possess the item. These two defenses can be used to prove that the recipient did not have any reason to believe the item was stolen, or that the item in question already belonged to the recipient. This latter defense would be used if someone left stolen property in one’s car and the owner of the car was not aware of it.
Being charged with possession of stolen property is a crime that can hold very serious consequences in California. If you have been charged with such a crime, contact a San Diego theft defense lawyer that knows the legal system in San Diego - call jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys.
Founding attorney James N. Dicks is a California State Bar-certified criminal defense specialist, and a former investigator with the LAPD. Call today at (760) 630-2000 so he can begin reviewing your case with you. Your initial consultation is free.
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