Receiving Stolen Property


What is receiving stolen property?

Section 496(a) of the California Penal Code defines receiving stolen property as any individual that knowingly purchases or receives any property that is stolen or which was acquired through extortion or theft. Additionally, any individual who conceals or helps to conceal, withholds property from the true owner or sells the stolen property is also defined under the receiving stolen property statute. Receiving stolen property may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the value of the property received and prior criminal convictions. Of note, the statute forbids charging an individual both with the theft of and receiving the same stolen property.

Examples of receiving stolen property

  • An individual is found driving a stolen vehicle but either did not commit the original theft or the original theft cannot be proven against them.
  • Allowing any individual to store stolen property in your house, vehicle, or any other property you own.
  • Purchasing and reselling any items with serial numbers or identification methods removed or suspected to be tampered with and not inquiring from the seller as to their origin.

What the prosecution must prove

In order to obtain a conviction, the prosecution generally must prove four basic elements for this charge. First the prosecution must prove that the property in question was stolen. This is very straightforward and a report of theft by the defendant is typically all that is needed here.

Next the prosecution must prove that the stolen property was received by the individual being charged. This can occur when stolen property is discovered in your home or other property you own, such as your vehicle or garage. This may also be proven if you sell, attempt to sell, or give away the stolen property and the acquiring individual can confirm you as the origin for that transaction.

Third it must be proven that the receiving individual knew the property was stolen or acquired in an illegal fashion. Knowledge in this case can be proven based on what a reasonable person would believe or suspect. For example, a reasonable individual would not expect to receive a TV that regularly costs $2,000 for only $300.

Finally prosecutors must show that the receiving individual intended to keep the property from the true owner and deprive them of it. This can be proven by selling, concealing, giving it away to another individual or personal use of the property. Anything short of returning property to the original owner or the police can be considered intention to keep or deprive.

Legal Defenses

The most common legal defenses for a charge of receiving stolen property are:

  • That you were not aware the property was stolen. It is up to the prosecution to prove you had knowledge that the property was stolen. Possession alone is not enough for a conviction as knowledge of its illegal obtainment or the fact that a reasonably individual would have suspected it will need to be proven.
  • Your intention was to return the property to its rightful owner or the policewhen you received or discovered it. If you were making a good faith attempt to return the property to its rightful owner or to the authorities at the time it was discovered that is an acceptable defense.
  • You were unaware that you were in possession of the stolen property. For example if a friend decides to bury stolen items in your backyard or hide them in your property without your knowledge or permission this would be a good example of being unaware.


Receiving stolen property that has a value of $950 or less is classified as a misdemeanor with potential penalties as follows:

  • Up to one year in a county jail
  • A fine of up to $1,000
  • Misdemeanor/Summary probation

Receiving stolen property that has a value of more than $950 is classified as felony receiving stolen property with potential penalties as follows:

  • A 16 month, two year or three year term in jail
  • A fine not to exceed $10,000
  • Felony/Formal Probation

It is important to note that the victim in this case may recover 3 times the cost of damages from the convicted party in addition to standard court costs and fees.

How We Can Help

If you are charged with receiving stolen property in the Los Angeles area, let the experienced criminal defense team at the Law Offices of Jeff Voll help you to win your case. Our knowledgeable group of attorneys, experts and investigators have the experience necessary to defend you in any receiving stolen property case. If you have any questions or concerns, your free case review and legal consultation is just a phone call away at 323-467-6400.

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