Theft crimes in California refer to criminal acts of taking another person's property or money without the consent of the owner. According to California law, theft crimes are either misdemeanors or felonies. If you receive stolen property, you may also face charges under California law. Under the California Penal Code 496, receiving stolen property is a severe crime with severe penalties. You may commit the crime of receiving stolen property if you buy, receive, conceal, or sell any property while you are aware that the property is stolen. Stolen property refers to property obtained through theft or extortion. If you are facing charges for receiving stolen property, The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm can help you come up with a good defense.
Receiving Stolen Property under California Law
There are many ways of committing the crime of receiving stolen property in California. At times, you may violate California PC 496 without even realizing it. For instance, if your friend takes jewelry from a store and you help him or her to hide the jewelry, you may be guilty under PC 496. If you purchase a cell phone from a friend or another person, yet you are aware that the person had stolen the cell phone, you may face charges.
For the prosecutor to prove beyond doubt that you received stolen property, the prosecutor has to prove several elements of the crime. For instance, the prosecutor has to prove that you bought or received stolen property. The prosecutor may also show that you are guilty of selling or aiding in selling stolen property. On the other hand, if you conceal or withhold stolen property from the rightful owner, you may face charges under California PC 496.
For you to face charges for receiving stolen property, the element of knowledge is essential. It must be evident that you were aware that the property did not belong to the person from whom you received it. In other words, you must have known that the person who gave the property to you had stolen the property.
Meaning of "Obtained through Extortion" or Stealing
You may obtain property through stealing or through extortion if you acquire property through various means outlined under California law. For instance, if you use any form of theft, including embezzlements, to get a property, you may be guilty of stealing to obtain property. Any property acquired through burglary, as outlined under PC 459, qualifies as stolen property. If you receive any property acquired through robbery as described under PC518, you may face charges for receiving stolen property. The California PC518 defines the use of extortion to get property from another person. You may get property from another person through extortion. You may be guilty under PC 496 if you receive property obtained from another person without the consent of the person. Extortion entails getting property from another person using fear or force and without the permission of the person.
Receiving Stolen Property
Receiving stolen property entails taking possession of the property and controlling it. It is important to note that you do not have to be the sole possessor of the property. Two or more individuals may possess the same property at the same time. It is also important to note that to possess property, you do not have to hold the property or to touch it. You may possess property without holding, touching, or even seeing the property. You may be guilty of receiving stolen property if you have control over the property or if you have acquired the right to control the property.
Knowing About the Status of Property as Stolen
The prosecutor might not accuse you of receiving stolen property if you were not aware in the first place that the person who gave you the property had taken it. For example, you may purchase a stolen car without knowing. If the prosecutor cannot prove that you knew the car was stolen, the prosecutor cannot accuse you of receiving stolen property.
You might be guilty under PC 496 if you had a reason to believe that property was stolen, but you went ahead and acquired the property. You may also face charges for receiving stolen property if you had a reason to question the credibility of the property, but you failed to enquire about the property.
Consequences of Receiving Stolen Property
When you violate the California PC 496, the prosecutor may charge the offense as a misdemeanor or felony. The prosecutor will consider various factors when choosing whether to assign misdemeanor or felony charges. If you have a terrible criminal history and you have committed other offenses below, you are likely to face felony charges. The circumstances or the facts surrounding your case will also determine whether the prosecutor will charge the case as a misdemeanor or a felony.
For misdemeanor receiving stolen property, the consequences include serving misdemeanor probation. The alternative name for misdemeanor probation is informal or summary probation. Summary probation does not have strict conditions of probation. For instance, you do not have to file a regular report at the probation office, and you do not have to meet with the probation officer regularly. While you are on probation, you should not commit an additional crime. The court may recommend probation instead of jail time. However, if you violate the terms of probation, the court may suspend the probation and recommend jail time.
Other than the summary probation, the additional penalty for misdemeanor receiving stolen property is jail time. You may serve jail time in a county jail for up to one year. You may also have to pay a hefty fine that does not exceed $1,000.
For felony receiving stolen property, the consequences include serving a formal or felony probation. Formal probation has strict requirements or conditions of probation. For instance, you may have to meet with the probation officer regularly. You may also have to file a regular report at the probation office. If you fail to adhere to the terms of probation, the court may revoke the probation and propose jail time instead.
For a felony conviction, you may get imprisonment in the county jail for up to three years. The applicable fines for committing felony receiving stolen property may be up to $10,000.
It is important to note that you may only get misdemeanor charges if the property involved has a value of less than $950. If you receive stolen property worth more than $950, you will get felony charges according to California law.
Negative Immigration Consequences
Receiving stolen property will have adverse immigration consequences if you are not a citizen of the United States. Any violation under PC 496 is a crime of moral turpitude. If you are an immigrant and you commit the crime of receiving stolen property, you may face deportation. This entails being removed from the U.S and sent back to your country of origin. You may also be inadmissible. If you are inadmissible, you cannot be able to secure U.S citizenship even if you apply.
You may get the crime of receiving stolen property from your record by applying for an expungement. You may apply for expungement of your record upon completing your probation successfully. If the court had imposed a jail term, you might have to serve the entire jail term before you become eligible to apply for expungement of your record.
Can you apply for expungement if you violate the terms of probation? Yes, even if you breach the probation terms, you may still request for expungement. If you get an expungement, it will release you from many of the predicaments that come out of a criminal conviction. For instance, after expungement, potential employers cannot victimize you based on your past criminal records. Your prior criminal records will not be present in the public domains but will only be accessible by law enforcement officers. Therefore, under California PC 1203.4pc, an expungement yields numerous benefits.
Receiving Stolen Property and Gun Rights
If you get a conviction for receiving stolen property, your conviction may affect your gun rights according to California law. For a felony conviction under PC 496, you may no longer have a right to purchase, own, or possess a firearm. The prosecutor may choose to charge the crime of receiving stolen property as a misdemeanor or a felony. If the prosecutor charges the offense as a felony, you will lose your gun rights.
Fighting Violation of PC 496 Charges
When the prosecutor charges you with receiving stolen property under PC 496, you do not have to accept all the charges. With the help of an attorney, you can come up with a defense strategy to challenge the evidence of the prosecutor. If you put up a successful defense, the court may reduce or even suspend your criminal charges. Some of the common justifications for a violation under PC 496 include:
1. You were not Aware the Property was Stolen
To be guilty of receiving stolen property, you must have known that the property was stolen. If, at the time of receiving the property, you thought that the property was legally acquired, you may not be guilty of violating PC 496. You may assert in court that you had no idea of the status of the property as stolen. For example, your friend may take jewelry and then sell the jewelry to you. You buy the jewelry thinking that it belongs to your friend. In this case, you are not guilty of receiving stolen property because you were not aware that your friend took the jewelry and then sold it to you.
2. You Had Innocent Intent
You and your attorney may fight charges of receiving stolen property by asserting that you had innocent intent of taking the property. For instance, you may be innocent under PC 496 if at the time you received the property, you intended to return it to the owner. You may also be innocent if you received stolen property with the intent of surrendering it to the police. It is important to note that this defense will only apply if you intended to return the property at the time you received it. This defense cannot apply if you intended to return the property, but you later changed your mind.
3. You did not Receive Stolen Property
For a conviction under the California PC 496, you must receive stolen property for you to face charges. Therefore, if it is evident that you did not receive stolen property, you cannot face charges. Not receiving stolen property means that you did not possess the property. It also means that you did not have control over the stolen property.
4. You did not Know You were in Possession of the Property
At times, you may be in possession of the stolen property without even being aware of it. If you do not know that you are in possession of the stolen property, you cannot face charges under the California PC 496. For instance, while at the mall, a person may take a video game from the shelf and shove it into your backpack. When the police arrest you after finding the stolen video game in your bag, you may defend yourself. If you prove that you were not aware of the presence of the item in your bag, you are not guilty of violating PC 496.
Prosecutor's Proof that You Knew the Property was Stolen
Upon accusing you of receiving stolen property, the prosecutor will have one aim, to prove that you are guilty of the crime. For instance, the prosecutor will seek to prove that you were aware that you were receiving stolen property. However, you cannot face charges under PC 496 if you did not have direct knowledge that the property was stolen. The prosecutor has to prove beyond doubt that you knew or reasonably should have known that the property was stolen. The most persuasive evidence that the prosecutor can provide in court is direct evidence. The prosecutor may have direct evidence against you if you confess to the police that you were aware the property was stolen at the time you received the property.
The prosecutor may also present circumstantial evidence against you. Unlike direct evidence, circumstantial evidence entails making conclusions and drawing inferences from the facts surrounding your receipt of stolen property. It also involves making conclusions based on your behavior. The prosecutor will then use the assumptions that suggest that you know or that you should reasonably have known that the property was stolen. An excellent example of circumstantial evidence is the removal of serial numbers from an item. If you also bought an item at a price that is much lower than the applicable market price, it could be an indication that the item was stolen.
What if You Return the Property to the Rightful Owner
The defense, if you intended to return the property to the rightful owner, is known as innocent intent defense. It means that even if you received the stolen property, you intended to give it back to the rightful owner or the police. The critical point of focus, in this case, is the juncture at which you intended to provide the property back to the owner. If immediately you gained possession of the item you intended to return it to the owner, you may not face charges under PC 496.
At times, you may take possession of stolen property with the intent to give back to the owner, but you end up keeping the property. For instance, you may change your mind and keep the property for your benefit, or you sell it to another person. If this is the case, you cannot claim that you intended to return the property to the owner.
A Conviction for Theft and Receiving Stolen Property at the Same Time
You may wonder whether the court can convict you of the offenses of theft or receiving stolen property at the same time. The answer to this question is no. The prosecutor may charge you with both thefts and the receiving of stolen property. However, the court can only charge you with one crime at a time. Under the California PC 496 (a), the law states that you can only face conviction of one of these offenses if both offenses refer to the same item of property.
How does the prosecutor attempt to accuse you of both theft and receiving stolen property? If, for example, you have stolen items, the prosecutor may accuse you of theft by trying to prove that you stole the item. If the prosecutor does not succeed in proving that you took the item, he/she may accuse you of receiving stolen property. The prosecutor may assert that even if you did not steal the item, you received it from another person knowing too well that the item was stolen.
Depending on how the prosecutor presents the evidence in court, the judge may convict you of either theft or receiving stolen property. However, the judge cannot convict you of both crimes at the same time.
Some offenses in California are closely associated with the crime of receiving stolen property. The prosecutor may charge you with the related crimes alongside the crime of receiving stolen property. The prosecutor may also charge you with the related crimes instead of the assault of receiving stolen property. Some of the related crimes include:
Theft is a crime, which is closely related to the crime of receiving stolen property. California law defines theft as the unlawful taking of another person's property. California PC 484 defines the crime of theft. If you unlawfully take property worth not more than $950, you will face petty theft charges under the California PC 488. If you commit a crime of petty theft, the penalty includes imprisonment in a California county jail for not more than six months. This penalty is applicable for the first-time offense of petty theft. Other consequences for the first-time crime of petty theft include paying fines that do not exceed $1,000.
If you unlawfully take property worth more than $950, you will face charges for grand theft under California law. The California Penal Code 487 outlines the crime of Grand theft. The specific punishment for grand theft will depend on the actual value of the property you steal. If you commit the crime of grand theft of a firearm, the offense is automatically a felony. The felony is punishable by imprisonment in California state prison. The imprisonment period may be 16 months, two years, or three years.
Under circumstances where no firearm is involved, the crime of grand theft is often a wobbler. This means that the prosecutor may charge the offense as either a felony or a misdemeanor. If the prosecutor charges the crime as a misdemeanor, it is punishable with a jail time that does not exceed one year in California county jail.
When you use force or fear to obtain property or money from another person, you may be guilty of the crime of extortion under California law. When extorting cash or property from another person, you may use threat or fear of unlawful injury to a person or property. You may also threaten a person of exposing or imputing on him or her deformity, disgrace or crime. You may even threaten a person by promising to reveal a secret affecting his or her life. The secret may be about the person or the person's family member. You may also threaten another person and get money from him or her by promising to reveal the immigration status or suspended immigration status of the person or of that of the person's relative. If you use the methods mentioned above to extort money or property from another person, you will face felony extortion charges.
The California Penal Code 518 outlines the crime of extortion. Under normal circumstances, the crime of extortion would be a wobbler and may attract misdemeanor or felony charges. If the prosecutor charges the offense as a misdemeanor, you will face jail time of up to one year in a California county jail. For felony charges, the imprisonment period is 16 months, two years, or three years in California state prison. For felony extortion, you may pay hefty fines of up to $10,000.
Find a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
If you are facing charges for receiving stolen property, it is essential to discuss the case with an experienced attorney. You should contact your attorney as soon as possible to give your lawyer ample time to review your case. The attorney will then come up with the proper defense strategy. Contact The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm at 310-935-1675 and speak to one of our attorneys today.