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Receiving stolen property is a crime in which the perpetrator takes permanent or temporary possession of property which she knows to have been stolen from the rightful owner. This crime may be committed at the local, national or international level. Depending on the value of the property and the jurisdiction in which the crime is committed, it may be a misdemeanor or a felony offense.
The crime of receiving stolen property often applies to an individual who knowingly purchases stolen items. This can be a personal collector who buys black market antiquities for a private collection or a distributor who purchases stolen televisions for sale to the public. Money does not need to change hands for a purchase to be transacted. Any exchange of valuable goods, services or information equals a purchase.
Many people think that a crime is only committed if the receiver purchases stolen goods, but stolen property can be received a number of ways. A truck driver who agrees to transport a load of goods that he knows to be stolen also may be charged with receiving stolen property. If he transports the load across jurisdictional boundaries, a misdemeanor may become a felony or a local crime may become a national crime. A consignment store owner who knowingly accepts a stolen designer purse and agrees to sell it in her showroom can also be charged. Even a teenager who accepts a stolen necklace from her boyfriend as a gift can be charged if she knew that the jewelry was obtained illegally.
The crime may also be called "receipt of stolen goods," or may be classified as theft, grand theft or larceny, depending on the jurisdiction and value of the object or objects. In some cases, such as with restricted substances, receiving stolen property may also entail other charges, including criminal possession. In the case of an established thief who works with an established reseller, often called a "fence," a charge of theft for the thief and a charge of receipt of stolen property for the fence may result in a charge of criminal conspiracy for both parties. To be convicted of receiving stolen goods, the prosecution must prove that the perpetrator knew the property was stolen.
The consequences of a charge for receiving stolen property vary significantly and are based on factors including the age and criminal history of the perpetrator, the value of the object and the jurisdiction in which the crime was committed. A minor who receives a low-value item and has no previous offenses may be assigned counseling, community service or a suspended sentence. An adult with a criminal history who receives an expensive item or shipment of items will often face jail time.
I think the key here is knowing the property is stolen. I can imagine that pawn shops and thrift stores receive items that weren't exactly donated voluntarily. But they aren't going to be charged with receiving stolen property if they can plead ignorance. There wasn't anyone around who could verify the ownership of those items, or the shop owners were duped by sellers under false pretenses.
I think the minute you suspect something might be stolen, you should just walk away from the deal. I've been offered great deals on everything from televisions to used cars, and most of the time they turned out to be stolen. All a police officer has to do is recognize the item on my porch and I'll be charged with possession of stolen property.
My sister got approached one time by a friend of hers who had a large stack of used music CDs. The friend offered her an unbelievably low price for each CD. I think she actually bought a few without asking her friend where he got them. He acted like they were his own disks and he was just trying to earn a little spending money.
As it turned out, the CDs were stolen property from a neighbor. The friend sold them under false pretenses. If my sister hadn't given them all back, she would have been facing receiving or possession of stolen property charges herself. The friend ended up getting charged with burglary charges. Sometimes innocent people get in serious trouble just because they don't ask enough questions about ownership.
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