Legal Dictionary

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Receiving Stolen Property

Receiving stolen property is the crime of acquiring or possessing property known to have been stolen by another person. In California, receiving stolen property is prosecuted under Penal Code section 496. Receiving stolen property is defined as knowingly buying, selling, receiving, concealing, or withholding property obtained by theft or extortion. Receiving stolen property can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony depending upon the facts surrounding the stolen property, the dollar amount of the property, and the criminal history of the perpetrator.

Receiving stolen property is different than theft because the person receiving the stolen property may have no knowledge of the facts of the theft. Mere possession of stolen property is generally insufficient to prove the crime of receiving stolen property, without knowledge that the property was stolen.

There are a number of circumstances which, if coupled with the possession of stolen property, help connect the perpetrator to the crime:

  • The price of the merchandise is considerably lower than expected (too good to be true);
  • There are no receipts available to document purchase of the merchandise;
  • The merchandise was purchased with cash;
  • The merchandise was purchased off craigslist;
  • The serial codes on the merchandise have been altered or removed; and
  • The seller of the merchandise has no authentic business address and essentially sold the merchandise "from the back of his truck."

If you are being investigated for receiving stolen property it is critical that you consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney before talking to law enforcement.