If you are currently charged with receiving stolen property, you need an experienced legal hand to help explain your best options going forward. Fresno theft lawyer Michael McKneely has experience as a former prosecutor, something that gives him a distinct advantage in pre-trial negotiation as well as in the courtroom on your behalf. Call possession of stolen property attorney Michael McKneely today at (559) 443-7442 to schedule an appointment for a free consultation, or tell us about your situation online.
Under the California Penal Code, the act of taking possession of property that you know is stolen can be charged as the offense of receiving stolen property. Upon conviction, severe punishments are imposed upon the offender. If you are currently facing such a charge, it’s important to obtain the services of an experienced Fresno theft attorney to defend you vigorously and protect your legal rights.
You may, in fact, receive stolen property unknowingly and not be guilty of this offense. For instance, if you purchased an item from someone without the knowledge that it had been stolen from its true owner, you are not responsible under the law for what occurred. However, if you knew that the property was stolen, or should have known, you could be convicted of the offense.
The statute governing the offense also forbids you from helping another person to conceal or withhold the property with knowledge that it was obtained in an unlawful manner. Only an exercise of control over the property is required to be designated as an offense – no requirement of using the property for personal gain is required.
What the Prosecution Must Prove
If you are facing a charge of receiving stolen property, the prosecution must prove multiple elements beyond a reasonable about your case in order to achieve a conviction against you. All of the elements involve what you are accused of doing with the property that was stolen or obtained through extortion. They include:
- Receiving, buying, selling, (or helping to sell), withholding or concealing (or helping to withhold or conceal) the property from the property’s owner
- Having knowledge the property was stolen when you performed any of the actions mentioned directly above
- Having specific knowledge of the presence of the property
Charges and Penalties
In California, the offense of receiving property that is stolen may be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony.
If the total property value involved in the transaction is $950 or less, the offense must be charged as a misdemeanor.
Misdemeanor Penalties Include:
- Maximum of one year in county jail, and a maximum fine of $1,000
Felony Penalties Include:
- 16 months to a maximum of three years in county prison, and a maximum fine of $10,000
Additional Consequences of a Conviction
Beyond the legal penalties described above, if convicted of receiving stolen property, you may face additional adverse consequences such as: inability to maintain state licenses, problems acquiring financing for loans or credit, changes to your immigration status, and a requirement to pay restitution of any economic losses incurred by the victim due to the offense.
Defenses to a Receiving Stolen Property Charge
The circumstances of each case are different. Some of the possible defenses that could apply to your situation and be utilized effectively by your Fresno theft lawyer include:
Lack of Knowledge of Stolen Property
You cannot be lawfully convicted if you did not have knowledge the property in question was stolen.
Lack of Knowledge of Property Presence
An innocent purchase of property that turns out to be stolen, without knowing it was stolen also does not amount to a crime in California. However, the services of an experienced defense attorney may be required to prove your lack of knowledge and nullify the government’s claim against you through the gathering of relevant transactional information such as contracts, receipts, emails, texts, etc.
Lack of Intent
In order to qualify for a conviction, you as the receiver of stolen property must also intend to divest the owner of the property for a certain length of time or permanently. If you, as the receiver of the property, intended to return it to the rightful owner, no criminal intent can be established.
You Did Not Have Possession of the Property
Your mere presence in the area where the stolen property is located does not qualify you for a conviction of the offense. This defense is easier to establish when there are multiple persons in the area who are connected to the property in some way and may be the possessor of it.
The Property is Not Stolen
It is possible for someone to mistakenly or falsely claim that the property is stolen when it is in fact not. The state must prove that the property in question is actually stolen property. If this is not proven, your case will likely result in dismissal or an acquittal.
Claim of Right
You may have believed in sincerity that you had a legal right to take the property. If so, your Fresno theft attorney may use the “claim of right” defense on your behalf. For this defense to be valid, you must have openly acquired the property without an attempt to conceal your actions.
Illegal Search & Seizure
Law enforcement officials must abide by the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution which protects citizens from unlawful search and seizure. For instance, if the officers did not obtain a warrant prior to searching your home, the property obtained may be suppressed from evidence.
Law enforcement is required to read you your Miranda rights prior to subjecting you to a custodial interrogation. If this is not done, any incriminating statements you make to the authorities will be suppressed from evidence.
You may be falsely accused of receiving stolen property. If this is the case, your defense team will need to perform a full investigation to uncover your accuser’s untruths.
Talk to a Fresno Possession of Stolen Property Attorney Today
If you are currently facing a charge of receiving stolen property, it is essential that you obtain skilled and experienced legal counsel to study the facts of your case and put together an intelligent and vigorous defense. As a former prosecutor and current possession of stolen property lawyer, Michael McKneely knows how to best deal with prosecutors. He will work hard on your behalf to achieve the best possible outcome that results in either a reduction of your theft charges or if possible, a dismissal of your theft charge in Fresno.
Call Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer today at (559) 443-7442 to set up a free consultation. If you’re facing possession of stolen property charges in California, preserve your legal rights by contacting us right away. Fresno criminal defense attorney Michael McKneely has been on both sides of the criminal justice system, so he knows what to expect and how to make the process easier for you.