In California, receiving stolen property involves knowingly buying, concealing, receiving, or selling stolen property. Once you commit the offense, you may face severe penalties and punishments. However, the defendant should seek a criminal defense lawyer's assistance when facing receiving stolen property charges.

At Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we work competently and diligently in finding the best resolutions to your offense charges. Additionally, we are committed to protecting your future and rights. Our defense attorney works tirelessly, minimizing your chances of facing aggravating penalties.

What is Receiving Stolen Property?

California penal code makes it a crime for any individual to purchase, receive, conceal, sell, buy, or gain control over stolen property. The crime charge comes with other theft offenses, including robbery, grand theft, embezzlement, shoplifting, and robbery. In California, the crime occurs when the defendant knowingly exercises control over stolen property, even if it wasn't used for personal gain.

To face accusations for receiving stolen property, one of the following must apply:

  • While receiving the property, you knew the goods were obtained by extortion or stealing
  • The defendant knew the property was in their presence or possession.
  • You received, sold, bought, aided sale, or concealed illegal acquisition of a given property acquired through embezzlement, robbery, or burglary.

Receiving Stolen Property Examples

  • A woman helps the husband hide stolen money from burglary, yet she fully knows the finances source.
  • A father assisting his son sells an expensive watch, yet he doesn't know where the watch originates. The father is likely to be guilty of receiving stolen property since he did not inquire about the watches' origin, so he could have suspected the son stole from somewhere.
  • A lady purchases an expensive car from a dealer at a lower price without inquiring how the dealer obtained the vehicle and why it is much cheaper.

What the Prosecutor Must Prove for Receiving Stolen Property Offense

In California, When the defendant receives stolen property, they violate PC 496. For the defendant to face convictions for receiving stolen property, the prosecutor must prove the following elements:

You Received the Property

Under PC 495, receiving property involves the defendant having a property in constructive or physical possession and control. Constructive possession involves possessing property without actually touching or holding them. Notably, for PC 496, the defendant should be the only person having the property. Additionally, two or more people may possess an item at the same time.

For instance, Johnson steals a few pieces of jewelry from a store. He decides to take the jewelry to his friend James. Then Johnson offers James two hundred dollars to let him hide the jewelry. Therefore, James is guilty of receiving stolen items.

Continuation of Criminal Intent

The prosecution must prove that the defendant had an intent in depriving the owner of the property. You should have intended to continue thievery enacted, control, and maintain the property by receiving the stolen property.

The intent may include an action constituting failure to report or any other means that support you in maintaining and controlling the property. When the prosecution proves these points, you will be guilty of receiving stolen property; therefore, you will face the respective penalties and punishments.

You Had Knowledge The Property Was Stolen

The defendant should have known the property he/she obtained was stolen or acquired through suspicious means. The knowledge will be enough to convict the defendant with receiving stolen property. Additionally, the defendants' knowledge concerning the property's stolen nature can be found when purchasing, obtaining, selling, or maintaining and controlling the property.

Was The Property Stolen?

A property counts 'stolen when received by grand theft, robbery, embezzlement, extortion, and larceny. Therefore, when the defendant received the property through any of the mentioned methods, they will face a conviction for obtaining stolen property.

You Knew The Property Was in Their Possession

For the defendant to face conviction under PC 496, they must have had known that the property was in their possession. For instance, Oscar breaks into a store and then steals an expensive watch. After stealing, Oscar stores the watch in a car belonging to his wife, Jane. After a short period, the police discover the watch in Jane's car. Therefore, Jane will not face a conviction for keeping stolen items since she lacked knowledge of her car's expensive watch. Jane cannot face convictions for receiving stolen property.

Receiving Stolen Property Penalties Under California PC 496

In Orange County, receiving stolen property counts as a wobbler charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the defendant's prior criminal history and particulars. When the property's total value is less than 950 USD, the defendant faces prosecution with a misdemeanor.

When convicted of a misdemeanor under PC 496, the defendant may face the following penalties:

  • The defendant faces imprisonment up to one year in county jail
  • Probation
  • A fine not exceeding one thousand dollars

When convicted of a felony under PC 496, the defendant may face the following penalties:

  • Felony formal probation
  • You face 16 months, 2 or 3 years of imprisonment
  • A fine of up to ten thousand dollars

However, receiving stolen property under PC section 456 is considered as a crime of moral turpitude. Therefore, when convicted under PC 456 as a non-citizen, the defendant may face immigration consequences and the above penalties.

The consequences constitute adjustment of status, reentry to the US, a bar to citizenship, and deportation. However, suppose you are a non-citizen and face conviction under penal code 496. In this case, you should consult a criminal defense attorney with experience understanding immigration consequences to plea and advise you accordingly.

Possible Legal Defenses in Orange County for Receiving Stolen Property

Under California law, receiving stolen property seems like a simple offense though it attracts hefty penalties. However, receiving acquaintance from the charge requires a strong defense strategy. Facing criminal charges does not guarantee a conviction. The prosecution must prove all the case elements before reasonable doubt for the defendant to be found guilty. Common defenses used in case of a receiving stolen goods prosecution include:

You Did Not Receive the Stolen Property

In California, the defendant must have received the stolen property to be guilty. You are not guilty of the crime if you did not receive, possess, or control the items. The mere presence of the stolen property in your office, room, or location doesn't qualify for conviction. The defense becomes more straightforward, especially when multiple parties possess the property. For instance: when someone places a stolen property in your office without your knowledge, you can't face a conviction for receiving the property since you didn't know it was in your office or stolen.

You Had Innocent Intent

The defense depends on your intent while receiving the property. To face charges for receiving stolen property, the prosecutor must prove your intention of receiving the stolen property. Additionally, the prosecution needs to prove the defendant knew the item was stolen or facilitated stealing the property. Innocent intent says you cannot be guilty if:

  • At the time of receiving the goods, you intended to take them to law enforcement officers.
  • If the defendant intended to return the item to the owner at the time they received them.
  • When the defendant did not change their minds later on, giving the stolen property back.

If you hire a competent lawyer to present your defense in providing a lack of criminal intent, you may not face conviction. However, the defense becomes difficult in proving your innocent intent under the following circumstances:

  • If the defendant promised to return the property to the legal owner and failed to do so.
  • When the defendant waited for a few days or formed the intention of returning the property later.

Intoxication Defense

The prosecution should prove you knew of the property's illegal possession to face a property conviction. California law would allow punishment for criminal acts if you were intoxicated by alcohol and drugs. Intoxication becomes a defense if the circumstance present during the crime commission shows your lack of knowledge on how the seller could obtain through stealing.

For instance: You attend a party, then drink alcohol heavily. At the party, someone brings an expensive necklace for 200 USD, and you purchase it. The prosecution finds it difficult proving you had the requisite knowledge the item was stolen or had the intent of receiving the stolen property.

Impaired mental conditions offer the best proof you were not in the right mental state while possessing the property. Additionally, you could use the medical records to ascertain the claim.

False Accusations

Sometimes, you could face accusations of receiving stolen property falsely. When falsely accused, an experienced criminal defense attorney may perform a full investigation to uncover the accuser's untruths proving your innocence. You need sincerity while speaking with your defense attorney to assist them in building a strong defense.

You Had a Claim of Right

If you're sure of legally obtaining the property in question, the right defense claim works perfectly for you. If you believe that you have the right to the property, a claim of right will serve your defense. If the defendant obtained the property believing they had the right to the property, their defense attorneys could argue their rights.

For the defense to work, the defendant must have taken the property openly. When the defendant legally obtained the property, their defense lawyer could prove the property's open acquisition led to a case dismissal or charge reduction.

Illegal Search

The fourth amendment of the constitution protects citizens from unlawful seizure by law enforcement officers in California. Therefore, police officers should have a search warrant before searching your home. In cases where the officers did not obtain a warrant before searching your home, the acquired property may be suppressed as evidence, and your case dismissed. However, you need to provide evidence, including live recordings, to prove the officer violated the constitution's fourth amendment. Additionally, you need the assistance of a defense attorney to represent you in court.

Possession of The Property

At times you may face accusations for stealing someone's property, yet you possess it. The prosecution should prove you stole the property, and the defendant claimed ownership. Lacking proof beyond a reasonable doubt on stealing the property may lead to your case dismissal.

Insufficient Evidence

Possessing stolen property may not be enough evidence to face a conviction for obtaining stolen products, although the act is an offense. Additionally, the prosecution should provide direct evidence, including a written record or statement showing you stole it.

To face a conviction for receiving the stolen property, the property must have been stolen, and the defendant should have known its acquisition was through stealing. However, someone can innocently purchase the property without the knowledge of its illegal obtainment. In the case of receipts, texts, and email exchange could prove a lack of knowledge on the stolen property.

You Did Not Own The Property

Sometimes, you may decide to purchase goods from a friend. For instance, you order a phone, and then you intend to pick it the following day. However, before picking it, a relative informs you of a stolen phone constituting familiar features with the one you intended to purchase. After confirming the allegations, you dismiss the purchase and request a refund. For example, the defendant did not possess or exercise control over the phone; hence, they cannot be liable for receiving stolen property.

Lacking Information on The Stolen Property

The prosecution should prove your awareness on the illegal acquisition of the property. The circumstances surrounding your property may lead to proving your innocence. For instance, if your roommate comes home with an expensive phone and requests you to buy the phone at a lower price than market value, California law concludes you knew your roommate stole the phone, therefore declaring you guilty.

Alternatively, if the roommate buys and sells the phones regularly, it becomes difficult to prove you knew it was stolen property. If you asked the seller why the property has a low price, the decision is plausible. You could not be liable for receiving stolen property.

Related offenses To Receiving Stolen Property

Alongside receiving stolen property, we have other related offenses leading to severe punishments and penalties under the California law to anyone involved in the crimes. Related offenses filed along receiving stolen property or as a different case are:

Thefts-California PC 484

Theft is the unlawful taking of another person's property. If the property is at a value of less than 950 USD, it counts a petty theft. For first-time petty theft, punishment is usually a fine of 1000 dollars and a county jail for up to six months.

When the property has a value of more than 950 USD, it counts as grand theft. Additionally, the punishment for grand theft varies depending on the type of property stolen. Grand theft with a firearm is often a felony. The crime is punishable by imprisonment of up to six years in state prison.

However, grand theft is a wobbler offense. When the defendant faces charges as a misdemeanor, the punishment is imprisonment of up to 1 year in county jail. While as a felony, the possible sentence for grand theft would be imprisonment for up to three years in state prison.

Keeping Stolen Property

Keeping stolen property is violating California Penal Code 485 if you are keeping a property that:

  • You didn't bother finding the owner.
  • You know the owner of the property.

The crime carries similar penalties with grand theft or pretty theft. Notably, most people usually confuse acquiring stolen property by keeping the stolen property. However, from each offense's elements, the charges for keeping stolen items are based on the fact that you never made any attempt to know the property owner.

Extortion-California PC 518

A person commits extortion when h/she uses fear or force in obtaining property or money from another person. Notably, extortion is a crime punished by up to four years in state prison.

Alternatively, extortion is often a wobbler offense. When the defendant faces a misdemeanor charge, the crime is punishable for up to 1 year in the county jail. If the defendant faces charges as a felony, the offense is punishable with a possible fine of up to 10,000 dollars, sixteen months, two, or three years.

Robbery-California PC 211

Under California PC 211, robbery involves theft using force or fear threats. Robbery offenses result in substantial prison sentences. For instance, a purse-snatcher operates by walking into crowded places and ripping purses off ladies' shoulders. Then, they run away with the purse and keep whatever property they find inside. The purse-snatcher could face prosecution for robbery under California PC 211 since he/she used force in obtaining someone's property. The robbery offenses are punishable for up to five years in state prison. Additionally, if the defendant robbed one or more people, they may face prosecutions and punishments for multiple counts of robbery.

Helping Others Receive Stolen Property

In California, you may face criminal charges when you assist another person in receiving stolen property. The penal code also applies when you help sell, conceal, or withhold any property from its owner. For instance, you have a friend who commits burglary, then one day, the friend steals expensive jewelry successfully. The friend fears the police questioning them on the jewelry, and asks you to hide it until the police lose interest. Under penal code 496PC, you could face criminal charges for assisting your friend in concealing the stolen property.

Burglary-California PC 459

In California PC 459, burglary includes entering a building, hotel room, a home, or any other inhabited building to commit a felony. The defendant can either face charges with either first-degree burglary or face charges as second-degree burglary. Notably, the first-degree burglary is commonly referred to as residential burglary, and it's a felony. When the defendant enters a commercial building to commit a felony, h/she will face charges for second-degree burglary, which is a wobbler charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

First-degree burglary is a felony punishable by up to 6years in prison, a strike under California three-strike laws, and substantial fines. Alternatively, second-degree burglary is a wobbler punishable as a misdemeanor or a felony according to prior criminal history and its severity. When the defendant faces conviction for a felony, they can face imprisonment of up to 3years.


Under PC 503, embezzlement involves misappropriating properties by an entrusted person. According to the embezzled property's worth, embezzlement is treated as either petty theft or grand theft in California.

Can The Defendant Obtain Expungement?

Under the California PC 1203, an expungement is a petition by the defendant in a criminal case, leading to probation. The defendant requests the court through the petition to withdraw their plea of guilty and reenter an appeal of not guilty, and also dismiss the case. When granted, the expungement releases the defendant’s consequences of a conviction.

An expungement is applicable for a defendant convicted with either a felony or a misdemeanor only when the defendant did not serve a state prison period for the crime or completed probation. Therefore, the defendant will obtain expungement when they complete their probation. Additionally, if the defendant violates the probation term, the judge might still award expungement.

Contact A Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

Receiving stolen property attracts severe penalties, including imprisonment, loss of employment, probation, fines, and immigration consequences for non-citizens. When charged with the offense, you require a competent defense attorney to investigate the alleged crimes.

At Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we understand the constitutional defense strategies that will lead to a reduction or dismissal of your charges. We have many years of experience building the most robust possible defense when our clients face receiving stolen property charges. If you are in Orange County, contact us at 714-740-7848 and speak with our criminal defense lawyers.