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Receiving Stolen Property: What is the law and punishment?

California Penal Code 496(a) "Receiving Stolen Property" may be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony depending on criminal history and value of the property.  Several situations can lead to a receiving stolen property charge including storing or purchasing property from another.  Receiving stolen property carries the same stigmas associated with the theft and can be an embarrassing mark on ones record if not handled correctly.

What Must Be Proven in a Receiving Stolen Property Case?

PC 496(a)requires the following to be proven:

  1. the defendant bought or received property that had been stolen or obtained by theft or extortion; or 
  2. the defendant concealed, sold, or withheld property that had been stolen or obtained by theft or extortion; or
  3. the defendant aided in concealing, selling, or withholding property that had been stolen or obtained by theft or extortion; and
  4. the defendant knew the property was stolen at the time he or she bought or received the property.

As a felony, the following must also be proven:

  1. the value of the property exceeds $950; or 
  2. the defendant is not eligible for proposition 47.

 The prosecution has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant received stolen property.

What are the penalties for a Receiving Stolen Property Case?

Misdemeanor

As a misdemeanor, PC 496(a)  has a maximum fine of up to $2,000 and/or up to 1 year in county jail.  

Felony

As a felony, PC 496(a)  has a maximum fine of up to $10,000 and/or up to 3 years in state prison or in county jail if eligible under PC 1170(h). 

What are the defenses to Receiving Stolen Property?

The defendant was not aware the property was stolen

The defendant must have known the property was stolen at the time it was in their possession.  The fact that you are storing or holding property for another is not enough to be guilty of receiving stolen property.  It must be proven that the defendant knew it was stolen.

The defendant did not know he or she was in possession of the property

If the defendant was not aware the property was in their possession, they cannot be guilty of receiving stolen property.  It is common for another to leave property in your garage, vehicle, or spare room without your knowledge.  You may even be splitting an apartment and your roommate is storing stolen property in a common closet without your knowledge.  A defendant should not be found guilty of receiving stolen property in this situation.

Innocent intent defense

If the defendant is in possession of the stolen property only for the purpose of returning the property to the original owner or police, they have not violated PC 496(a).  This is a valid defense to receiving stolen property.

See also

PC 488 Petty Theft

PC 487(a) Grand Theft

PC 666(a) Petty theft with a prior

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If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime, call the Law Offices of Steven McNicholl at (951) 405-0990. We have the skill and experience in San Bernardino County to protect your rights and get the best results in your case.

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