July 1, 2015

Receiving Stolen Property | PC 496

Under California PC 496, every person who buys or receives any property that has been stolen or that has been obtained in any manner constituting theft or extortion, knowing the property to be so stolen or obtained by extortion, or who conceals, sells, withholds, or aids in concealing, selling, or withholding any property from the owner, knowing the property to be so stolen or obtained, is guilty of receiving stolen property.

Elements of the Crime

In order to be convicted under PC 496, the prosecution needs to prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. The elements of receipt of stolen property includes: 

  • The defendant buys, receives, conceals, sells, withholds, or aids in concealing, selling, or withholding property that has been stolen or extorted,
  • knowing the property to be so stolen or obtained by extortion

Stolen. The prosecution needs to prove that the property has been stolen. Stolen is defined by a taking as a result of a robbery, burglary, or any of the four types of theft. Theft can be accomplished by larceny, larceny by trick, false pretenses, or embezzlement. The penal code also covers property obtained by extortion. Extortion is property obtained with victim’s consent, but that consent must be obtained by force, threat of violence, or duress. 

Receive. The defendant must receive stolen property. The statute does not require actual possession of the property. Constructive possession is sufficient for prosecution as long as the defendant has control or right to control the property. 

Knowledge. The defendant must know that the property is stolen. Aside from cases where defendant confesses, it is usually very difficult to prove knowledge. The prosecution will rely on circumstantial evidence in proving that the defendant knew or should have known that the property is stolen. 

A person acts knowingly with respect to a material element of an offense when:

  • 1. if the element involves the nature of his conduct or the attendant circumstances, he is aware that his conduct is of that nature or that such circumstances exist; and
  • 2. if the element involves a result of his conduct, he is aware that it is practically certain that his conduct will cause such a result.

Defenses

Lack of Knowledge. If there are not any indicators that the property is stolen (removed serial numbers, missing parts, etc.), then the prosecutor will have a difficult time proving that a reasonable person should have known that the property has been stolen.  

Innocent Intent.  Because PC 496 requires wrongful or criminal intent, the mere receipt of stolen goods with knowledge that it has been stolen is not itself a crime if the property was received with intent to restore it to the owner without reward or with any other innocent intent. However, the innocent intent must exist at the moment the stolen property was accepted by the receiver. People v. Wielograf. Additionally, if the person receives property with intent to restore property to original owner, but later decides to keep the property for own benefit, then he/she cannot claim innocent intent defense. 

Punishment

Receiving stolen property is a wobbler, meaning that it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Property with fair market value of less than $950 is charged as a misdemeanor. A defendant may face up to a year in county jail and a maximum $1,000 fine for misdemeanor PC 496.

Property with fair market value over $950 is charged as a felony. A defendant may face 16 month, 2 years, or 3 years in county jail and a maximum $10,000 fine.

If you have been charged with Receiving Stolen Property, Call 619-357-6677.

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