Receiving Stolen Property

It is a crime to possess property which you know, or should know, is stolen. That means you can’t buy stolen goods, sell them, take them as a gift or payment for any reason, hide them for someone or hang on to something you know is stolen when the rightful owner demands it back.

One of the tricks that isn’t always obvious about Receiving Stolen Property is that sometimes the knowledge element, actually knowing the stuff is stolen, is hard for the prosecutor to prove. As an Orange County property crime lawyer, let me give you an example:

Let’s say you go on Craigslist and are looking for a snowboard. The one you want is around $400. But you don’t have that kind of dough and so you cruise around looking to see if there’s a used one around.

Bingo! There’s a cool Burton Custom Flying V for sale from some guy in Laguna Niguel and he wants $150. He says it’s near new. Cool. So you call him, meet him at a nearby shopping center, and after a bit of haggling, you buy it for $130.

Done? Not quite. You see, the police may have been investigating the theft of a snowboard from someone’s car and decided to watch Craigslist. They follow the seller (after tracking his location via software) and arrest both of you in the shopping center. The seller is charged with burglary and you are charged with Receiving Stolen Property. How is that fair? It’s not. The police will have to refer the case to the District Attorney and they will have to decide whether or not they can prove a case against you or not.

It’s up to a qualified property crime lawyer in Orange County to argue that you had no knowledge that the snowboard was stolen, nor could you be expected to. The DA may argue that the price was so low that any reasonable person would conclude that the board had to be stolen. But, the winning argument is that Craigslist is a place where people who need money quickly can sell their belongings without too much hassle.

Were the board to have been priced at $25.00 then there’s a much tougher hill to climb. Frequently, the police pose as interested buyers, trolling the website for what appear to be deals too good to be true, meet up with the seller, quiz him a bit, and then decide whether to arrest him.

So, a good defense to the charge of Receiving Stolen Property has to focus on your mental state. Did you know, or have reason to know that the property was stolen? Look at the price, look at the condition, look at the circumstances under which you acquired the property. The total picture will tell a lot about your mental state, and a property crime attorney in Orange County can help you tell your side of the story. If a case of this sort went to a jury trial, the judge would instruct the jury that the DA has the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you possessed something and that you know or should have known it was stolen.

You will also receive an instruction that innocent intent, the intent to return something that is stolen, is a complete defense. Also, if you can show that you were drunk when you acquired something stolen, that may negate, or eliminate the the mental state required for the conviction and result in an acquittal.

If you have any questions regarding Receiving Stolen Property, don’t hesitate to contact Orange County Property Crime Attorney William Weinberg in his Irvine, California office at (949) 474-8008, or online at

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