Receiving stolen property is charged under California Penal Code Section 496(a) making it a crime to buy, receive, conceal or sell the property knowing it was stolen or obtained by extortion. Additionally, it is also illegal to aid another person in concealing or withholding the property knowing it was unlawfully obtained.
Elements Prosecution Must Prove to Convict on Receiving Stolen Property Charges?
The elements the prosecution must prove to convict defendant for receiving stolen property under California Penal Code Section 496(a) include the following:
- Defendant bought, sold, received, concealed or withheld from the owner (or assisted another person in these acts) such property that had been stolen or obtained by extortion
- Defendant was aware that the property had been obtained by extortion or stolen
- Defendant actually knew the property was in his possession
“Receiving” Property Under Penal Code Section 496
Under California Penal Code Section 496, “receiving” property means acquiring possession and control of the property. For purposes of Penal Code, more than one person can have possession of the stolen property. “Receiving” property doesn’t require physical possession over it; having control of the property even it is not in your immediate possession is enough.
Stolen or Obtained by Extortion Property
Property is considered “stolen” if it is obtained by burglary, grand theft, robbery, larceny, embezzlement, or any other theft crime. Property is obtained by extortion in case it is acquired from another person with his consent, but that consent was obtained through the use of force or fear.
Legal Defenses For Penal Code Section 496 Receiving Stolen Property
Person Didn’t Know that the Property was Stolen
As one of the essential elements of the offense, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant knew that the property was unlawfully obtained. In case a person was unaware of that fact, he cannot be charged with the receipt of stolen property.
Person didn’t know that the property was in his possession
The prosecutor should also prove that the defendant was actually aware the property was in his possession. In case a person didn’t know about the presence of the property, he can’t be convicted under Penal Code Section 496.
This defense applies if the defendant can show that he intended to return the stolen property to the police or the rightful owner at the time he had received the property. If the defendant decided to keep the stolen property and only later intended to return it this defense will fail.
Penalties Receiving Stolen Property Under California Penal Code Section 496(a)
In California law receiving stolen property is considered a wobbler and can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the defendant’s prior criminal history and case circumstances. But if the total value of the property is $950 or less the defendant can only be charged with misdemeanor.
Penalties for Misdemeanor 496(a) PC Receiving Stolen Property Offense
Penalties for misdemeanor 496(a) PC receiving stolen property offense include the following:
- Up to one year in county jail,
- A fine of up to 1,000 , and/or
Penalties for Felony 496(a) PC Receiving Stolen Property Offense
Penalties for a felony 496(a) PC receiving stolen property offense include the following:
- Sixteen months, two or three years in jail,
- A fine of up to 10,000), and/or
- Felony probation
In addition to the penalties mentioned above a person may face a civil lawsuit by the rightful owner of the property. Lastly, if a convicted person is a noncitizen, he will have immigration consequences which can include a bar to citizenship, reentry to the US, adjustment of status, and deportation.
496(a) PC Receiving Stolen Property Lawyer
For answers to any other questions you may still have about California Penal Code 496(a) or to discuss your case confidentially with our team of experienced California criminal defense attorneys. Give give us a call at (310) 943-1171. Our lawyers in Glendale, Los Angeles County, CA, are highly dedicated to serving the needs of our clients.