The criminal act of taking someone’s money or property without consent is considered a theft offense in California. It’s a crime under California’s Penal Code Section 496 for any person to receive stolen property knowingly. This crime involves selling, concealing, buying, or receiving any property you are aware of that is stolen. Any property obtained through extortion or theft is stolen property. Receiving stolen property to most people in California seems like a simple crime when, in reality, you could face severe penalties if convicted of this crime. It's also against PC 496 to help someone withhold or conceal any property knowing it was obtained unlawfully. If you face criminal charges for receiving stolen property, Darwish Law can help you create an excellent defense to fight the charges.
Receiving Stolen Property Under PC 496
A person may violate PC 496 in California without even realizing it. The offense of receiving stolen property can be committed in many ways. If you steal jewelry from another person's shop and hide it, you may face the charges under PC 496. You may also face the charges under this statute if you buy a car from someone or a friend, yet you know that it is stolen.
The element of being aware is important for you to be convicted of receiving stolen property. The evidence that you knew of the property as having been stolen by the person you received it from should be apparent. The prosecutor must prove several elements of the offense for him or her to charge you with receiving stolen property. He or she must provide the evidence that you received or bought stolen property. The prosecutor must also prove that you sold or assisted in selling stolen property. You could also face the charges under PC 496 if you withhold or conceal another person’s property.
The Meaning of Receiving Stolen Property
Receiving stolen property involves controlling the property and taking possession of it. The stolen property doesn’t have to be possessed by one individual. More than one individual can possess it. You also don’t have to touch or hold the property to possess it. A person may possess stolen property without seeing, touching, or even holding it. You may face the charges of receiving stolen property if you have acquired the right to control the property or possess the property.
Having the Knowledge of the Property as Stolen
If you acquire any property that you believe is stolen, you may face criminal charges under PC 496. You may also be guilty under this statute for receiving stolen property if you failed to inquire about its credibility. On the other hand, the court may not charge you of receiving stolen property if you didn’t know that whoever gave you the property had stolen it. For instance, you may have bought a stolen phone. The court can’t charge you for receiving stolen property if it doesn’t provide enough evidence that you knew the phone was stolen.
Meaning of Stealing or Obtaining Through Extortion
You could have obtained the property through various means stated by California law. For instance, you may acquire property through extortion or stealing. If you employ the means of theft, such as embezzlement, you may face the charges for acquiring property by stealing. Under PC 459, if you obtain any property through burglary, it is a form of stealing. You may also be guilty of receiving stolen property under PC 518 if you receive any property obtained through extortion.
Extortion is another means that you can use to obtain property from another person. It’s defined under California's Penal Code Section 518 how one can obtain property from another person through extortion. Under this statute, extortion involves receiving property from someone using force or fear and without his or her consent. You may face charges under PC 496 if you obtain property from another person without their consent.
Penalties for Receiving Stolen Property
It’s a wobbler crime under California’s PC 496 to receive stolen property. This means you could face a felony or misdemeanor charge depending on your criminal history and the case's facts. The prosecutor has the liberty to charge the crime as a felony or misdemeanor. If the property received amounts to $950 or less, you could face misdemeanor charges. If the violation under PC 496 is a misdemeanor, you could face a fine of $1,000, a sentence of up to one year in county jail, and summary probation. Since summary probation is an informal one, you don’t need to report to a probation officer. However, you may have to adhere to certain conditions of probation, like engaging in community service.
If you are charged with a felony, you could face a fine of $10,000, a sentence of 16 months, two, or three years in prison, and a felony formal probation. You will be required to report regularly to the probation officer if you are under a felony or formal probation.
You may also lose your gun rights if you are convicted under PC 496. California law prohibits the defendants convicted with felonies from possessing, owning, or purchasing a gun. If you are charged with receiving stolen property, you could also face negative immigration effects under PC 496. It’s a crime of moral turpitude in California and you could be marked inadmissible or deported from the United States if you are a non-citizen.
On the other hand, you could get an expungement if you are convicted of receiving stolen property. This can only happen on the condition that you successfully serve your jail term and the probation. The court may still impose an expungement if you violate a probation term. According to PC 1203.4 of the California law, an expungement may release you from many conviction hardships. You will require the guidance of an experienced attorney to apply for expungement of your criminal record.
Defenses to the Charges of Receiving Stolen Property
If you are charged with violating PC 496 receiving stolen property, there are several defenses you can employ to fight your charges. The defenses include:
Had an Innocent Intent
You may discover that your friend kept a stolen phone in your vehicle and you decide to take it to the police. In this case, you did not intend to withhold the stolen property. You, therefore, can’t face the charges of receiving stolen property under PC 496.
Unaware that the Property was Stolen
If you were not aware that the property you received was stolen, you can't face the charges of receiving stolen property under PC 496. The prosecutor must provide evidence that you were aware of the property being stolen. Once the prosecutor determines that you were aware of the property's status, like through your written statement, you could face the charges under PC 496.
The court may request you to deduce your awareness from circumstances that the state can prove. Circumstantial evidence could be used to charge you with receiving stolen goods if suspicion existed about the circumstances of obtaining stolen goods. For instance, your friend may come to you with an expensive phone and request you to buy it at a price below the market value. In this case, you may be guilty of receiving stolen property if you don’t question the source of the phone. However, if your friend buys phones regularly and sells them at a discounted price, you may not suspect that the phone is stolen.
Not in Possession
You may purchase a bicycle from your brother and plan to collect it the following day. Before taking it, one of your friends informs you of a missing bicycle, which has similar features as the one you bought. After confirming the theft allegations, you cancel the buying agreement and demand a refund. In this situation, you didn’t exercise control over or take possession of the bicycle. You are, therefore, not responsible for the charges related to theft or receiving stolen property.
No Property was Stolen
Sometimes, your friend may accuse you of stealing his or her property, yet he or she still possesses it. The prosecution has to provide enough evidence that you indeed took or stole the alleged property and claimed ownership of the property. If the court fails to prove this, you could be acquitted of the charges.
You have Legal Possession
The claim of right of ownership may work appropriately for you if you are sure that the alleged property was legally obtained. However, this claim needs a proper presentation from you to prove before the court. At its best, the court may try to determine your knowledge level when you were buying the property and if you obtained the alleged property legally. With your attorney's help, you can prove that you obtained the property openly to enhance the defense credibility.
Questionable Mental and Health Status
If the prosecutor accuses you of receiving stolen property, he or she must provide evidence that you were aware of possessing illegal property. Poor mental and health status is enough evidence to prove that you were not mentally upright while obtaining the stolen property. To ascertain this defense, your doctor's medical report and records could be essential to the court.
Victim of False Accusation
Sometimes, you may not face the charges of receiving stolen property because of false evidence presented before the court. The prosecutor should unravel the truth during his or her investigations and save your case.
Miranda Rights Violation
Before the police subject you to interrogation about receiving stolen property, they must first inform you of your Miranda rights. The law requires the police to read Miranda rights to you following California law. The police should inform you that you have a right to remain silent during interrogation to avoid self-incrimination. Otherwise, the statements presented during your arrest will be invalid before the court if the police violate Miranda rights.
Subject to Unlawful Searches
If the police attempt to obtain proof from you for receiving stolen property through an unlawful search, the court could dismiss this proof from your charges. The fourth amendment in the Constitution protects citizens from illegal searches by the police. The court might dismiss your case if your attorney proves that the police searched your house without a warrant and without probable cause.
Violation of PC 485 Misappropriation of Lost Property
It’s an offense to misappropriate lost property under California’s Penal Code Section 485. The crime happens when an individual comes upon another person’s lost property, and he or she keeps it, even if there is a clue of locating the owner. You may violate PC 485 misappropriation of lost property through the following ways:
Keeping a lost purse when it has the owner’s ID
Withholding money after seeing it fall from a woman’s purse
Keeping your friend’s lost jacket when his or her full name is written inside
If the prosecutor accuses you of misappropriation of lost property, he or she must prove that:
You didn’t make reasonable efforts to locate the rightful owner
You took the property for your own use
You found lost property with clues of locating the rightful owner
You may find a purse on a shop bench containing the owner’s driver license, credit cards, and cash. You then decide not to ask the shopkeeper about any woman who was sitting by the purse. You also fail to check the ID and credit cards to see if you can get the purse owner's address or phone number. In this case, you are guilty of misappropriation of lost property. You had clues that could help locate the purse owner, but you failed to make reasonable efforts to locate her. Instead, you took the purse for your own use.
If you are found guilty of violating PC 485, you could be charged with grand theft as per PC 487 or petty theft as per PC 488 of the California law. If the misappropriated property was greater than $950, you could face grand theft charges. A grand theft conviction under this statute is a wobbler offense. This means you could be charged with a felony or misdemeanor. You may face a jail sentence of up to three years for felony grand theft. You could also face up to one year in a county jail for misdemeanor grand theft.
If the misappropriated property was $950 or less, you could face petty theft charges. You could face a fine of $1,000 maximum and a sentence of up to six months in county jail.
Violation of PC 503 Embezzlement
The offense of embezzlement is defined under California’s Penal Code Section 503. Under this statute, it's unlawful for any person to take property entrusted to him or her. If the prosecutor accuses you of embezzlement, he or she must prove that:
You intended to deprive the rightful owner of its use
You fraudulently converted the property for your benefit
The owner entrusted you because he or she trusted you
The owner entrusted his or her property to you
In California, violation of PC 503 is punishable as petty theft or grand theft, depending on the type or value of the property borrowed or stolen. You might face grand theft charges if the property involved was a firearm, a vehicle, or any other property worth $950.
A grand theft crime under California law is a wobbler. You may face felony or misdemeanor charges. If the prosecutor charges you with misdemeanor grand theft, you could face a sentence of up to one year in county jail. If felony grand theft applies, you could face a three-year prison sentence.
If the value of the property embezzled was $950 or less, you could face misdemeanor petty theft charges. You could therefore face a sentence of up to six months in county jail.
Violation of PC 518 Extortion
The offense of extortion is defined under Penal Code Section 518 of the California law. You may commit extortion crime by threatening or forcing a public officer to carry out an official act, or forcing someone to hand over his or her property or money. If the prosecutor accuses you of extortion, he or she must prove that:
The victim gave you the property or money
The victim agreed to give you property or money because of your threats
You used force or threats to compel the victim to agree to give you property or money
It’s a felony under California law to violate PC 518. You could face a fine of $10,000 maximum and a sentence of up to four years in state prison. You could also lose your right to own a gun because the law prohibits violent felony defendants from possessing or buying a gun in California. A conviction of extortion is also a crime of moral turpitude. You may be inadmissible into the U.S or face deportation from the U.S if you are a non-citizen.
Find a Santa Ana Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
If you or your loved one is currently facing charges for receiving stolen property, you must seek help from a competent attorney. You should immediately contact your attorney so that he or she may have enough time to create the best defense. At Darwish Law, we have experienced attorneys who can evaluate your case and help you create a strong defense against the charges. Contact us at 714-887-4810 and talk to one of our attorneys.