Can You Go to Jail for Buying Stolen Goods Without Knowing?

A man with his hands handcuffed behind his back.

Receiving stolen goods involves the purchase, possession, or concealment of items that have been stolen. It is illegal to knowingly obtain stolen goods, including those obtained online or through other third-party sources.

In California, it is crime to knowingly purchase or receive stolen property. Under California Penal Code Section 496, anyone who buys, conceals, withholds property – or aids in any of these actions – that they know was obtained through theft or extortion can be charged with receiving stolen goods.

What Must Be Proven to Convict?

The key here is that in order to be convicted of the crime of receiving stolen goods, the prosecution must prove that you knowingly received stolen property. In such a case, the state has the burden of demonstrating beyond a reasonable doubt both that you actually received the property and that you knew it was stolen.

What Defenses Are Possible?

If you received stolen property accidentally or inadvertently, you should not be convicted of receiving stolen property. Depending on the circumstances, an experienced criminal defense attorney may argue that you did not genuinely know that the goods you received were stolen. It is also possible that your attorney could argue that you either never were in receipt of the stolen property or did not know you received it.

What Are the Penalties for Knowingly Receiving Stolen Goods?

If a stolen good was below $950 in value, then you will likely be charged with a misdemeanor, which can carry up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1000. However, if the stolen good was over $950 in value, you can be charged with a felony. A felony conviction of receiving stolen goods can carry a punishment of up to three years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. It’s also possible that you can be subject to civil liabilities, especially from the owner of the stolen property.

Businesses and Stolen Goods

Certain kinds of businesses are required to do due diligence in affirming that the goods they acquire for their enterprise are not stolen, including:

  • Swap meet vendors
  • Antique dealers
  • Junk or metal dealers
  • Pawnbrokers
  • Consignment shop owners

If you own a business that deals in used or second-hand goods, you are obliged to be on the watch for suspicious circumstances that might indicate those goods have been stolen.

Contact the Law Office of Brian C. Andritch Today!

If you are concerned that you may have come into possession of stolen goods or you have been accused of receiving stolen goods, the Law Office of Brian C. Andritch is prepared to help protect your rights in court. Our criminal defense attorney has behind-the-scenes experience as a former prosecutor and can use that experience to help develop a strategic defense on your behalf.

Contact us online or call us at (559) 484-2112 to schedule a free consultation. 

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