Most people understand that the law prohibits theft, the crime of taking property from another person without his or her permission with the intent to deprive the rightful owner of its use, but did you know that receiving stolen property is also a crime in California? If you buy, receive or possess property that was stolen, knowing that it was stolen, you could be charged with a misdemeanor or felony theft crime, and a conviction of this crime is punishable by significant fines and time in jail, not to mention the burden of a criminal record and the stigma associated with theft crimes. To speak to a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney about your case and discuss potential defense strategies that may help you avoid a conviction, call Criminal Defense Attorney Los Angeles today at (213) 205-3100.
Affordable Receiving Stolen Property Defense Attorney in Los Angeles
Due to the vague nature of Penal Code § 496 PC, you could be found guilty of receiving stolen property even if you are a swap meet vendor or the owner of an antique store or second-hand shop and you receive property from another person under suspicious circumstances. If you fail to reasonably inquire into the legal ownership of the property in question, and that property turns out to be stolen, you could face criminal charges under Penal Code § 496 PC receiving stolen property. The key factor in a Los Angeles receiving stolen property case is intent. In our experience, it can be difficult to prove that you were unaware that the property was stolen at the time you took possession of it, which is where a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney comes in. Our defense lawyers at Criminal Defense Attorney Los Angeles will aggressively challenge the evidence put forth by the prosecutor handling your case and thoroughly investigate all aspects of the case in order to develop the strongest possible defense.
Receiving Stolen Property
Receiving stolen property is a criminal theft offense covered under California Penal Code § 496 PC and the crime is defined as knowingly buying, receiving, possessing, concealing or withholding from the owner property belonging to someone else that was taken by unlawful means. The crime of receiving stolen property occurs when a person:
- Buys or receives property that he or she knows has been stolen or obtained by means of extortion;
- Conceals, sells or withholds property that he or she knows has been stolen or obtained by means of extortion; or
- Aids in concealing, selling or withholding property from the owner that he or she knows has been stolen or obtained by means of extortion.
According to California law, property is considered stolen if it was “obtained by any type of theft, or by burglary or robbery,” including “obtaining property by larceny, embezzlement, false pretense, or trick.” Property is considered obtained by extortion if it was “obtained from another person with that person’s consent and that person’s consent was obtained through the use of force or fear.” An example of a receiving stolen property crime in Los Angeles would be if a woman helps her boyfriend hide money he stole from a convenience store, knowing that that is where the money came from. Some other criminal offenses related to California Penal Code § 496 PC receiving stolen property include Penal Code § 487 PC grand theft, Penal Code § 484 and 488 PC petty theft, Penal Code § 518 PC extortion, Penal Code § 503 PC embezzlement, and Penal Code § 485 PC theft/appropriation of lost property.
Conviction for Receiving Stolen Property Penal Code § 496
California Penal Code § 496 covers a broad range of activities that could be charged as criminal offenses, from actually purchasing stolen property to simply helping someone conceal property you know to be stolen. However, just because you have been accused of receiving stolen property doesn’t mean you will be convicted of the theft crime. In order for the prosecutor assigned to your case to obtain a conviction under Penal Code § 496 PC, he or she must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the following:
- The property you received was illegally obtained;
- You knew or should have known that the property was illegally obtained; and
- You possessed or had actual or constructive control of the property and knew you had possession or control.
How is Receiving Stolen Property Different from Robbery or Theft?
The crime of receiving stolen property (Penal Code § 496 PC) involves purchasing or accepting property that you know was obtained through the criminal act of robbery, extortion or theft, but the offense is separate from the actual crimes of robbery (Penal Code § 211 PC), extortion (Penal Code § 518 PC) and theft (Penal Code § 484 PC and 488 PC petty theft; Penal Code § 487 PC grand theft). Because of the nature of a receiving stolen property crime, such an offense often involves the act of purchasing or otherwise obtaining property that was taken by another person using illegal means, such as robbery, extortion, theft, embezzlement, larceny or burglary, and that other person could be found guilty of those crimes. However, if it can’t be proven that the person in possession of the property was the person who actually stole it, receiving stolen property charges may be brought instead.
Penalties for a Receiving Stolen Property Conviction
In November 2014, the state of California passed Proposition 47, which reclassified certain minor drug and theft offenses from felonies to misdemeanors, resulting in decreased penalties for crimes like receiving stolen property and petty theft. Today, receiving stolen property in Los Angeles is a “wobbler,” which means it can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony offense depending on the circumstances of the case, namely the total value of the stolen property, the loss suffered by the alleged victims of the crime, and the defendant’s criminal record. Generally speaking, if the value of the stolen property is less than $950, the defendant could be charged with – and convicted of – a misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to one year in county jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines. If, on the other hand, the value of the stolen property is greater than $950, the defendant could face a felony conviction punishable by 16 months, two years or three years in state prison and/or up to $10,000 in fines.
There are certain circumstances that can result in increased penalties for a receiving stolen property conviction in Los Angeles, including one or more prior theft convictions, and if the stolen property crosses state lines, the crime can be prosecuted under federal law. In addition to jail time, significant fines and restitution to the victim, there are also serious civil and social consequences associated with a Los Angeles receiving stolen property crime, known as collateral consequences. You could, for instance, lose your right to own or possess a firearm, have your professional licenses suspended or revoked, be prohibited from serving in the military, suffer adverse immigration consequences if you are not a U.S. citizen, and/or be restricted in your ability to secure employment in certain fields, such as the education, government and healthcare fields.
Defenses to Receiving Stolen Property Charges
Any time you are charged with a crime in Los Angeles, you have the right to hire an attorney to assert a defense on your behalf to explain, justify or excuse your alleged criminal behavior and improve your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome in your case. Receiving stolen property is a specific intent crime in Los Angeles, which means the key factor in the prosecution of such a crime is proving the person receiving the property, the defendant, knew it was stolen when he or she received it. In order to be guilty of California receiving stolen property, the defendant must also have committed the crime with the specific intent of permanently depriving the rightful owner of the property. There are a number of defenses a criminal defense attorney can raise in a receiving stolen property case, to make it more difficult for the prosecution to meet its burden of proof. Some defense strategies that may be helpful in fighting receiving stolen property charges include:
- Actual innocence
- Lack of intent
- Mistaken identity
- False accusation
- Mistaken belief of ownership
- Illegal arrest
- Unlawful search and seizure
- Voluntary intoxication
Hiring a Qualified Receiving Stolen Property Defense Attorney in Los Angeles
Because the law governing the criminal act of receiving stolen property is broad, there are many types of criminal acts that can be charged in violation of Penal Code § 496 PC. Even if you innocently acquire property and then later discover that the property was stolen and continue to conceal it, you can be charged with receiving stolen property under California law. However, keep in mind that being arrested for or charged with a California theft offense like receiving stolen property is far different from actually being convicted of the crime, and with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney on your side, you may be able to avoid a criminal conviction altogether. If you or a loved one has been accused of receiving stolen property under Penal Code § 496 PC, consult our reputable theft defense lawyers at Criminal Defense Attorney Los Angeles to determine how best to defend yourself against misdemeanor or felony receiving stolen property charges.