Receiving Stolen Property Charges: 7 Ways to Get Off the Hook

How to beat a receiving stolen property charge?

The property was not actually stolen:

  • To secure a conviction for receiving stolen property, it must be proven that the property in possession was, indeed, stolen.
  • If it cannot be established that the property was stolen and the owner incurred a loss, the charge may not stand.

Lack of knowledge:

  • To be convicted of receiving stolen property, the accused must have known or should have reasonably known that the property was stolen.
  • If there is no knowledge that the property was stolen, a conviction may not be sustained.

Innocent intent:

  • Even if the person knew the property was stolen, they can argue they intended to return it to its rightful owner or report it, indicating innocent intent.

Mens rea (Guilty Mind):

  • A defense can be made that the accused did not possess the requisite criminal intent (mens rea) for the offense.
  • For example, they might argue that they didn’t know the property was stolen and, therefore, lacked the criminal intent required for a conviction.

Police misconduct:

  • If evidence against the accused was obtained illegally by the police, such as through an unlawful search or seizure, the evidence may be deemed inadmissible in court.

Penalties vary by jurisdiction:

  • Penalties for receiving stolen property can differ from state to state and may depend on the value of the stolen property.
  • For example, in California, the charge can range from a misdemeanor to a felony, with a maximum sentence of up to three years in jail.
  • In Washington State, it may be classified as a Class B or C felony, with a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in jail and a $20,000 fine.

Seek legal counsel:

  • Consult a defense attorney for personalized guidance and the best course of action when facing charges.

What is receiving stolen property charge?

Receiving stolen property involves knowingly receiving stolen goods and maintaining their stolen character, distinct from theft but related.

Knowledge Requirement:

  • Conviction for receiving stolen property necessitates knowledge or should-have-known property’s theft.

Varied Penalties:

  • Legal penalties for receiving stolen property can differ significantly based on the state and the property’s value.

Felony or Misdemeanor:

  • Depending on the jurisdiction and the specific case circumstances, authorities can charge receiving stolen property as either a felony or a misdemeanor.

Elements of Conviction:

To secure a conviction for receiving stolen property, a prosecutor typically needs to prove:

  • The property was stolen before it was received.
  • The property was received by someone other than the thief.
  • The receiver had knowledge (actual or should have known) that the property was stolen.
  • The intent to permanently deprive the rightful owner of their property existed.

Legal Counsel:

  • If facing a receiving stolen property charge, seeking the advice of a criminal defense attorney is strongly recommended. An experienced attorney can help individuals understand their legal options and develop an appropriate defense strategy.

What to do if you are charged with receiving stolen property

Hire a lawyer:

  • The most crucial step is to hire a lawyer experienced in criminal defense. A lawyer can help you understand your rights, explore your options, and build a strong defense. They can also negotiate with the prosecution to potentially reduce or dismiss the charges.

Plead not guilty:

  • If charged with receiving stolen property, it’s advisable to plead not guilty. This grants you the opportunity to defend yourself in court.

Go to trial:

  • If no plea agreement is reached, your case will proceed to trial. During the trial, you can present your defense to a judge or jury.

Don’t talk to the police without a lawyer:

  • Anything you say to the police can be used against you in court, so it’s best to have legal counsel present.

Cooperate with your lawyer:

  • Providing your lawyer with all relevant information is vital for building a robust defense.

Avoid handling the case yourself:

Other Points to Keep in Mind:

  • The prosecution must prove that you knew or should have known that the property was stolen.
  • Demonstrating a legitimate reason for possessing the property can potentially help you avoid conviction.
  • If convicted, the judge may consider various factors when determining your sentence, including your criminal history and the value of the stolen property.

Remember, you are innocent until proven guilty, and you have the right to a fair trial and legal representation.

What are the consequences of receiving stolen property?


  • Misdemeanor: Up to a year in a local jail in some states.
  • Felony: One year or more in a state or federal prison.


  • The court may impose fines as a penalty, with the amount depending on the value of the stolen property and state laws.


  • The court may impose probation as a penalty, requiring the individual to meet specific conditions, such as attending counseling or performing community service.


  • The court may order the individual to pay restitution to the victim of the theft, compensating them for their loss.

Criminal Record:

  • A conviction for receiving stolen property results in a criminal record, potentially affecting future employment, housing, and credit opportunities.

What is the role of a judge in a receiving stolen property case?

Ruling on Pre-Trial Motions:

  • Before the trial begins, the judge evaluates and decides on any pre-trial motions presented by the prosecution or defense.
  • This may encompass requests to suppress evidence.
  • It can also involve motions to dismiss the case if there are legal grounds for doing so.

Jury Selection:

  • If the defendant has opted for a jury trial, the judge manages the jury selection process.
  • This process may include questioning potential jurors to ensure they can be impartial and unbiased in the case.

Admitting Evidence:

  • The judge holds the authority to determine which pieces of evidence are permissible in court.
  • The judge also makes rulings on objections raised by the prosecution or defense regarding the admissibility of specific evidence during the trial.

Instructing the Jury:

  • As the trial concludes, the judge provides instructions to the jury regarding the relevant laws.
  • This includes explaining the elements of the crime of receiving stolen property.
  • It also involves outlining any available legal defenses that may be applicable.


  • In the event of a guilty verdict, the judge is responsible for determining the appropriate sentence.
  • This sentence may include elements like incarceration, fines, probation, restitution to victims, and the recording of a criminal record.


In conclusion, successfully addressing a receiving stolen property charge requires a strategic and knowledgeable approach. Essential steps include hiring an experienced defense attorney, pleading not guilty, and potentially going to trial. Challenges to the prosecution’s case, such as demonstrating innocence, lack of guilty intent, or police misconduct, can be powerful defenses. The severity of penalties depends on jurisdiction and property value, making legal counsel crucial. Remember, you are presumed innocent, and a skilled attorney can help safeguard your rights and explore the best course of action to achieve a favorable outcome.

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