Theft, or larceny, is a crime that involves unlawfully taking property. It is usually categorized by the value of the theft, as either grand larceny, or petty larceny. However, even if someone had no involvement in the theft, if they receive stolen property that they know is stolen, they can be charged of the crime of buying or receiving stolen goods.
Buying or Receiving Stolen Goods
Whoever buys, receives or aids in the concealment of stolen or embezzled property, knowing it to have been stolen or embezzled can be charged under Massachusetts law. This also applies to goods having been obtained by false pretenses. Even short term concealment of the goods is illegal. For example, if someone asks you to hold on to a gun or some jewelry for a little while, which you suspect may be stolen, you could be charged with a crime.
To be convicted, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will have to prove three things beyond a reasonable doubt.
- The property in question was stolen;
- The defendant knew the property had been stolen; and
- The defendant knowingly had in possession, bought or helped conceal the stolen property.
Knowledge is a question of fact, and it is up to the jury to determine whether or not to infer the defendant knew or believed the goods were stolen. This is usually shown by making an inference from the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged possession, purchase, or concealment of the stolen property. Buying goods for a really low price from someone on the street may give most people the impression that the goods are stolen.
If the defendant bought, concealed or possessed stolen property that they didn't know was stolen, they are not guilty of this crime. However, if they later learn that it was stolen and they decide to keep the stolen property, they can be found guilty.
You don't necessarily have to be in physical possession of stolen property to be charged. For example, if you have exerted control over the goods in some way, this may be considered to be receiving stolen property. It also doesn't matter if you profited in any way from the stolen goods. In addition, the value of the property stolen is only an element of the punishment, but not an element for the criminal offense.
What are the penalties for receiving stolen property?
The penalties for receiving stolen goods will depend on the value of the items taken. If the retail value is less than $250, then the offense is treated as a misdemeanor, subject to a fine of $250 and imprisonment of not more than two and a half years in jail. Where the value is $250 or more, or if it is a second offense, penalties include a possible $500 fine, and up to 5 years in prison.
Federal Receipt of Stolen Property
If the receipt of stolen property involves crossing state lines, with the property valued at more than $5,000, then it can be treated as a federal offense, tried in federal court, with any sentence to be served in a federal correctional facility. For example, if someone stole a car in Rhode Island then gave or sold it to someone in Massachusetts, federal jurisdiction could be invoked. This could also include buying known stolen property online. It doesn't matter if the person buying the stolen property didn't know it came across state lines. Penalties for this crime can include a fine and up to 10 years in prison.
What are some possible defenses to charges of receiving stolen property?
There are a number of defenses available to a criminal charge of buying or receiving stolen goods. For example, if the person arrested never knew the property was stolen, they are not considered guilty of the crime. Additionally, the statute of limitations runs from the initial concealment date, and is not a continuing offense.
Any defenses will depend on the facts and specifics of your individual case. For these reasons, is important to talk to an experienced Boston criminal defense lawyer who has successfully defended people charged with receiving stolen goods and other theft charges. A criminal theft record can have long lasting effects, which is why it's important to speak with a skilled criminal defense attorney to help you understand the possible penalties, and what defenses may be available to keep you out of jail.