What Is Receiving Stolen Property?

The stealing of a car is considered felony theft or grand theft.
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  • Written By: Maggie Worth
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 27 June 2014
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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 offence.

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 offences may be assigned counselling, 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.


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