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Articles Posted in Receiving Stolen Property

Penal Code Section 496 makes it a crime to knowingly buy, sell, receive conceal or withhold property that has been stolen. The key word here is “knowingly”. In order for the prosecution to prove that a crime has been committed, they must be able to prove that you knew that the property was stolen when you receive or took possession of it.

To explain a little further, in California, the state must essentially show that the person receiving the property knew, or reasonably SHOULD have known, that the property was stolen. So, if someone buys something that has a value of $5,000.00 but was able to purchase it for $250.00, this would be a “red flag” and may provide evidence for the prosecution that the person knew or “should have known.”

So what are some of the ways the prosecution can prove someone knew that the property was stolen. Obviously, confessions or statements at the time of the arrest or when being questioned would help the prosecutions case. But, where there is no confession or incriminating statements, the prosecution relies on the circumstances surrounding the arrest. Suspicious activities may include:

A Fountain Valley High School storage locker was broken into and thousands of dollars worth of baseball equipment stolen over the Labor Day weekend. According to authorities, the equipment was taken from the locker sometime Sunday night or early Monday morning. The value of the items taken is reportedly to be $3,000.00 to $4,000.00. According to the Coach of the high school team, the school is made up of 84% economically disadvantaged families and the theft is a huge blow to the program.

The authorities are investigating the theft and if the perpetrators are caught, they face serious charges including but not limited to burglary and possession of stolen property. Depending upon the circumstances surrounding the theft, the people involved, and their prior criminal record, the District Attorney could elect to add additional charges.

Burglary is defined under California law as “entering a structure with the intent to commit a felony or petty theft once inside.” Burglary is a “wobbler”, meaning that it can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor, depending upon the circumstances and your prior criminal record.

There is First Degree Burglary and <Second Degree Burglary. The difference lies with the type of structure broken into. Residential burglary is first-degree burglary and is always filed as a felony. In this particular situation, because the structure broken into was a storage locker at a high school and not a residence, the District Attorney may elect to file it as a misdemeanor, second-degree burglary.

If charged with burglary, the prosecution must prove certain elements of the crime in order to be convicted. The elements are: 1) That you entered the structure; and 2) that you entered the structure with the intent to steal or commit another felony once inside.

Intent, when entering a structure plays a very important role in terms of what the ultimate charge will be. In petty theft or shoplifting cases, it can be mean the difference between a charge of petty theft and second-degree burglary. As an example, a young woman goes shopping with the intent to buy a lip gloss. But, once inside, she discovers that the lip gloss is more expensive than she anticipated and she steals it. The charge should be petty theft because, when she entered the store, her intent was to buy a lip gloss and only elected to steal it after realizing that it was too expensive. Keep in mind however, that the charge of petty theft is based on a value less than $950.00. Above that amount will result in a charge of grand theft.

Regarding the situation here where the baseball equipment was taken from the storage locker, the value exceeds $950.00 and therefore, even if the intent to steal were not there, and thus no burglary charge, the charge would be grand theft, based on the value of the items taken.

The penalties and punishments for a conviction of burglary can be harsh. The following is an example of guideline penalties:

A Conviction for First Degree Burglary, a felony, exposes you to two, four or six years in a state prison and a $10,000.00 fine;
A conviction for Second Degree Burglary as a felony exposes you to sixteen months or two or three years in state prison and a $10,000.00 fine.

A conviction of Second Degree Burglary as a misdemeanor exposes you to up to one year in jail and a $1,000.00 fine.

Burglary cases can be difficult and complicated for the prosecution to prove due to legal technicalities. For this reason, they often agree to settle cases for lesser charges. So, even though you may have been arrested and prosecuted for felony burglary, an experienced criminal defense attorney will often be successful in getting the charge reduced to misdemeanor burglary or dismissed all together.

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A Lake Forest man has been charged with Receiving Stolen Property after Fountain Valley Police responded to an unrelated call at a warehouse where the Lake Forest man was. Upon their arrival, they discovered that he was in possession of a motorcycle that had previously been reported stolen. The suspect ran from police, but was chased and eventually stopped by a K-9 unit.

This man had been sought by Orange County Sheriff’s Investigators as a suspect in 7 motorcycle thefts. They had previously gone to the man’s home and discovered 6 stolen motorcycles, but he fled before they arrived.

A person is considered to have committed the crime of possession of stolen property or receiving stolen property if he or she has the property that was gained by theft, fraud or any other crime. The person must also have knowledge that the property was stolen or gained by fraud. If the prosecution can show that it was obvious that a reasonable person had this knowledge but ignored, or chose not to investigate further, they can be found guilty of the charges.

Receiving stolen property under California Penal Code 496 is considered a “wobbler”. This means that, depending on the circumstances of the case and the criminal history of the accused, it can either be filed as a felony or a misdemeanor. If convicted of a misdemeanor, the sentence is up to one year in County Jail. But if convicted of a felony, the sentence is 16 months to 3 years in State Prison.

There are several defenses that, in this case, an experienced Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney should consider, depending on the circumstances of the case. Some of the more common are: Mistake of fact, meaning that he didn’t know that the property was stolen. Also, believing that he had a right to the property. If either or both of these can be proven, he cannot be convicted of the charge. Similarly, if he didn’t know that he possessed the stolen property, in other words, someone placed the property in his possession without his knowledge, he would be entitled to an acquittal.

In choosing an attorney, in this case, this man will need the advice and representation of an experienced Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney, specializing in Receiving and/or Possession of Stolen Property. A good Criminal Defense Attorney will do what is necessary to get the charges reduced to a misdemeanor, if filed as a felony, and to minimize the exposure of time he may be facing. Along with that, an attorney familiar with the laws, defenses and the Orange County Courts, will be able to maximize all defenses and opportunities available in this type of case.

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