When most people think of theft, they tend to think it only includes the actual or intentional taking of the property of another without their permission. Many fail to realize or even believe that accepting (even as a gift) or buying stolen property, commonly called receipt of stolen property, is also considered theft. As with all theft crimes, receiving stolen property is a serious offense that carries the same penalties as ordinary theft.
If you are facing charges for receiving stolen property, it is in your best interest to immediately consult with a criminal defense attorney to aggressively fight your theft charge. Because knowing is the most critical element, payment, even in full, of stolen property is not a defense.
Texas Theft Law
Section 31.03 of the Texas Penal Code defines theft as the unlawful appropriation of property with intent to deprive the owner of property. As a theft crime, receipt of stolen property is generally broken into four elements:
- the property must be received;
- the property must have been previously stolen;
- the person receiving the property must know it was stolen; and
- the person receiving the property must intend to deprive the owner of the property.
In most cases, the heart of a receipt of stolen property offense is that the accused knew that the property was stolen. “Knowing” does not only mean actual knowledge that the property was stolen, but can also mean that under the circumstances, a reasonable person should know that the property was stolen. Obviously if somebody tries to sell you a Rolex in an alley for $20 you can probably assume it’s hot!
“Should Have Known” Doesn’t Always Mean Guilty
Other elements aside, without the critical knowing element, it is much harder for the prosecution to prove their case. It becomes even harder for them to prove their case if they cannot show actual knowledge and instead rely on reasonable knowledge — because those types of cases are less likely to lead to a conviction.
Not only is proving that someone should have known property was stolen difficult in itself, if there was no reasonable way to know that property was stolen, you simply cannot be guilty of receiving stolen property. This, of course will all depend on the circumstances surrounding the receipt of the stolen property.
Take a Stand Against Your Charges
Getting charged for receiving stolen property should never be taken lightly and you should not go through your case without a fight. There are many defenses that can be used to challenge a receipt of stolen property charge:
- Insufficient evidence – to be successfully convicted of a receiving stolen property, the accused must either know or should have known that the property was stolen. Mere possession is not enough to convict, even if it may be a separate crime itself.
- Mistaken belief – an honest, mistaken belief that the property was not stolen or that the property is rightfully yours.
- Intoxication – it must be involuntary intoxication to the point where it severely clouds knowledge that property is stolen.
- Infancy (the accused did not reach the age of criminal responsibility).
- Insanity (legally insane).
- Incapacity – lacking the capacity to know right from wrong or the consequences from his or her actions.
Like all theft offenses, the penalties for receiving stolen property vary with the value of the stolen property and the theft laws in the state where the stolen property was received. The most common penalties in Texas include fines, probation, imprisonment, and civil remedies where the person whose property was stolen can either sue to demand return of the property or payment for the full amount of the property.
A conviction for receiving stolen property also negatively impacts your reputation for honesty, which can affect your ability to keep or get a job and will harm your reputation in your community.
Reach Out to a Galveston Criminal Defense Attorney Today
Secure your reputation and your future. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates to have a board certified specialist in criminal law litigation analyze your situation, explain your options, and find the best defense strategy for you case.