What Are the Elements of Receiving Stolen Property?
Receiving stolen property is a crime in New Mexico. If you purchase or knowingly house stolen property, or property you even suspect to be stolen, then you could be charged with a crime.
The crime, however, is not the same as that assigned to the actual thief. Receiving stolen property is considered a lesser crime. But depending on the value of the stolen merchandise and your role in housing it, you could face serious criminal charges and lengthy prison sentences – even if you were not the person that stole that property.
The Elements: What Does It Take to Be Convicted of Receiving Stolen Property?
As with any criminal charge, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of receiving stolen property. It can be a felony or misdemeanor, but to successfully convict you of the crime, the prosecutor must show the following elements.
You Knew or Reasonably Suspected That the Product Was Stolen
If you knew that the merchandise you received was stolen, the prosecution must prove that in court. They will also try to prove that you should have reasonably known the property was stolen at the time you purchased or housed it. If, however, there is no proof you knew it was stolen property, then the prosecution would be unable to prove its burden and you would not be convicted.
You Did Receive Stolen Property
The property must be stolen. So, you cannot be setup on a secret operation by law enforcement with property that isn’t stolen and then charged with the receipt of that property.
You Had Intent to Deprive the Property’s Owner
Most importantly, the court must see that you had intent to deprive the owner of their property – by purchasing and keeping it, storing it, or giving it to a third party. Basically, you have taken actions to ensure the rightful owner cannot receive the property back.
What If You Don’t Know the Property Is Stolen?
There are instances where a person will purchase or store something and they do not know that it is stolen. In that case, the court would not be able to convict you of receiving stolen property. However, if you should have reasonably known, the prosecutor can still argue that you are guilty of the crime. For example, a family member with a history of theft asks you to store something of high value – something you know they couldn’t have purchased themselves. Even if you did not ask or they confirmed it was stolen, you would have reasonable suspicion that the goods you are taking are not legally purchased; therefore, you have accepted the stolen property.
If you discover the property is stolen after you have taken control of it, but you keep the product anyway, then you are still guilty – even if, at the time you initially accepted it, you didn’t know.
What If You Return the Items or Plan to Return Them?
Your intent to return doesn’t hold much sway in court. There is no way to prove that you had the intent of returning stolen property. Instead, the only way to prove you had intent was to physically return it to the owner or take it to your local police department and report it. If you take no action, you have no defense.
What Are the Criminal Consequences of Receiving Stolen Property?
If you do receive stolen property, the consequences can be severe. Knowingly receiving stolen property is still a crime, and depending on the value of the property, you may face misdemeanor or felony charges. Typically, the value of the stolen property must be higher than $5,000 for it to become a felony, but even a misdemeanor carries serious, long-term consequences.
Just some of the penalties you could face for purchasing, storing, or accepting stolen property include:
- Jail time. You can serve time in jail or possibly in state prison if you are charged with a felony. The time you spend in jail will depend on the value of the property, your role in the theft, the role in how much you knew about the stolen property, and your intent. Also, if you have prior convictions, the judge is more likely to use a harsher sentence (such as imposing the maximum) than if you have no criminal record present.
- Paying restitution to the victim. While you didn’t steal the property, you also didn’t return it. Therefore, the court may require that you and the original thief pay restitution to the victim to help recover any monetary losses they experienced as a result.
- Paying court fines. In addition to jail time, most crimes carry financial penalties. These are in addition to the restitution paid to the victim, and you would pay them along with serving time in jail. The amount will depend on the category of crime and the value of the merchandise you knowingly purchased or took possession of.
- Serving probation. Whether you go to jail or not, you may have a probationary period. Under that period, you will have limitations on where you can go, who you can interact with, and what you may do. You must follow all rules of your probation, because violating it will not only result in going back to jail, but it could result in further criminal charges.
- Serving community service hours. The courts may impose community service hours, depending on the type of merchandise and its value.
Can You Defend Yourself against Receiving Stolen Property?
You should always contact a criminal defense attorney any time you are facing charges for theft. Whether you did not know about the value of the property and the fact it was stolen or not, you are facing serious consequences if convicted.
To protect yourself and your rights, you need an attorney who has experience with theft crimes. To get started, speak with a criminal defense attorney from New Mexico Criminal Law Offices. You can schedule a free case evaluation by calling us directly or you can request more information about our legal services online.