Receiving Stolen Property

Receiving Stolen Property: California Penal Code section 496

Obviously it is illegal to steal. A lot of people, however, do not realize that it is also illegal to receive stolen property. In fact, under California Penal Code section 496 (PC 496), receiving property you know to be stolen is punishable as a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances and your criminal history.

Required Elements of the Crime
In order to prove that a defendant is guilty of receiving stolen property, the prosecution must prove all of the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

The defendant received the property.
The property was stolen.
The defendant knew the property was stolen.

At a glance, these elements seem straightforward. There are, however, important items that require clarification to fully understand this law.

Receive
Under PC 496, to receive property is to buy or otherwise receive the property. It also includes, however, the following actions with regard to the stolen item(s):
Concealing the property
Selling the property
Withholding the property from the owner
Furthermore, to receive stolen property does not require having actual possession of the property. If you have direct control over the property or the right to control it, you have constructive possession over the property, which is sufficient to be found guilty of receiving stolen property. For instance, if a friend steals an item then, with your permission, hides that item in your bedroom closet, you have constructive possession and may be convicted of receiving stolen property.

Stolen
Property is stolen if the person who took it intended to permanently deprive the owner of it, and it is acquired by any of the following:
Petty theft
Grand theft
Burglary
Robbery
Embezzlement
If you knowingly receive the stolen property, the intent to permanently deprive the owner of it passes onto you. If you receive stolen property not knowing it was stolen but subsequently find out that it was, you must notify the owner immediately in order to prevent prosecution for receiving stolen property.

Penalties for Receiving Stolen Property
As stated above, receiving stolen property may be prosecuted either as a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances of the case as well as your criminal history.
The penalties for each type of receiving stolen property are as follows:

Misdemeanor
Up to 1 year in county jail
Felony
16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in State Prison

Additional Penalties if Stolen Property is Car, Tralier, Special Construction Equipment, or a Boat
If the stolen property was a car, trailer, certain type of construction equipment, or a boat, you still face the same county jail or prison sentences, but you also face a fine of $1,000 for a misdemeanor and $10,000 for a felony.

Civil Penalties
A unique aspect of PC 496 is that it sets forth civil penalties in addition to the criminal penalties. The rightful owner of the property may recover up to 3 times the amount of his/her loss plus his/her attorney’s fees and the cost of the lawsuit.

Defending Against Charges of Receiving Stolen Property
Mistake of Fact/Claim of Right
If you did not know that the property was stolen, you are not guilty of receiving stolen property. For instance, if you purchase a stolen item from someone you actually believed had legal right to it, you are not guilty of receiving stolen property.
Likewise, if you receive property you believe had been stolen from you, you are not guilty of receiving stolen property.
Mistake of fact such as this negates the knowledge requirement, even if the belief was not reasonable. It only has to be a good faith belief.

No Knowledge of Possession
If you did not know that you possessed the stolen property, you cannot be convicted of receiving stolen property in California. For instance, if someone put a stolen item in your home without your knowledge, you are not guilty of receiving the stolen item.

Innocent Intent
If you receive stolen property with the intent to return it to the rightful owner or take it to the police, you are not guilty of receiving stolen property.
If, however, you receive the stolen property, then develop the intent to return it to the owner or bring it to the police, you are not entitled to this defense.
Similarly, if you receive the stolen property with the intent to return it or take it to the police, but then change your mind, you are not entitled to this defense.

Voluntary Intoxication
Voluntary intoxication may be a defense because it could negate the intent to receive stolen property. If you did not have the intent to receive stolen property, you cannot be convicted of receiving stolen property.

Contact McDowell & Associates, Attorneys

We know that it can be troublesome when you need to act quickly to access money. But often, obtaining valuable information on your case will depend on when you hire your attorney. Again, the old cliché “the sooner the better,” fits, as you don’t want to lose valuable witnesses, video, or other evidence which can be lost or destroyed quickly and easily. Call McDowell & Associates, Attorneys today to discuss the best financial arrangement possible for your particular situation at 213-401-2322.