California Penal Code Section 496(a) – Receiving Stolen Property

The crime of “receiving stolen property” is described under California Penal Code Section 496(a). This statute makes it a crime to receive property knowing it was stolen or obtained by extortion. In addition, this statute also makes it unlawful to aid another person in concealing or withholding the property, if you knew it was obtained unlawfully. Penal Code 496(a) receiving stolen property is typically changed along with other theft offenses such as burglary, embezzlement, grand theft, petty theft, robbery, or shoplifting.  It’s important to note there is no legal requirement you took the property for personal gain, rather a PC 496(a) crime occurs once you knowingly take control of stolen property.

A common example of receiving stolen property in Los Angeles County includes a situation where someone commits a burglary from a store, then tells his friend how he obtained the merchandise and then ask them to hide it in their home until he can sell it. In this example, the friend could be charged with receiving stolen property because they knowingly received and concealed stolen property.

If the value of the property is $950 or less, it’s a misdemeanor crime. If the value is greater than $950, then it’s a “wobbler,” meaning the prosecutor has the discretion to file the case as either a misdemeanor or felony crime.

If you have been accused of receiving stolen property, you need to consult with the California criminal defense lawyers at Cron, Israels & Stark. Don’t make any statements to police detectives as you might incriminate yourself. Let’s take a closer review of the legal definition, penalties, related offenses, and legal defenses below.

Definition of PC 496(a) Receiving Stolen Property in California

California Penal Code Section 496(a) provides a legal definition for receiving stolen property as follows:

(a) Anyone who buys or receives property that has been stolen or obtained by theft or extortion, knowing the property to be stolen, or who conceals, sells, withholds, or aids in concealing the property from the owner, knowing it was stolen, will be punished up to one year in county jail, or imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.

In order for the Los Angeles County prosecutor to convict you of receiving stolen property, they must be able to prove specific factors known as the “elements of the crime.” These critical factors under CALCRIM 1750 Jury Instructions include:

  • You bought, sold, received, aided, withheld, or concealed property that was stolen
  • You knew the property was stolen or obtained by extortion
  • You knew of the presence of the property

It’s important to note that to “receive” property simply means you took possession or control over it, but doesn’t always means just physical possession. Just having the right to control the stolen property would be considered possessing or receiving it.

It’s also important to note in the elements of the crime that you can’t be convicted of Penal Code 496(a) receiving stolen property unless you knew the property had been stolen. This is frequently the target of attack from an experienced criminal defense lawyer as it may be difficult to prove this important element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

Finally, it should be noted that Penal Code 496 also includes specific categories for business owners who buy or receive stolen property. For example, swap meet vendors, dealers of collectors or junk metals, books or literary material, people who buy or receive vehicles, trailers, computers and other electronic equipment.

Penalties for Penal Code 496(a)

Penal Code 496(a) receiving stolen property is a “wobbler” crime that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony crime. Typically, the factors considered by the prosecutor to decide how to file include the facts and circumstances of the case and your criminal history.

If you are convicted of receiving stolen property as a misdemeanor, you will be facing up to one year in county jail and a fine. If you are convicted of a felony, you will be facing three years in a California state prison and a $10,000 fine. If someone was injured due to your actions, you might face a civil lawsuit where the victim could be entitled to collect 3 times the amount damages, along with attorney fees and other costs. In other words, the owner could seek restitution for their economic losses.

Related Offenses for Receiving Stolen Property

California Penal Code Section 211 – Robbery
California Penal Code Section 459 – Burglary
California Penal Code Section 484(a) – Petty Theft
California Penal Code Section 487 – Grand Theft
California Penal Code Section 503 – Embezzlement
California Penal Code Section 518 – Extortion

Legal Defenses for Penal Code 496(a)

Our Los Angeles theft crime lawyers can use a wide range on legal defense strategies on your behalf against charge of receiving stolen property in violation of California Penal Code Section 496(a). Every case is unique and will first require a close examination of the facts and circumstances of your case. However, the most common defenses include the following:

You did not know the property was stolen – As stated above in the elements of the crime, one of the most critical factors that must be proven by the prosecutor includes that you knew the property was actually stolen. Perhaps our lawyers can cast some reasonable doubt or convince the prosecutor they will have difficulty proving you knew the property was stolen. The burden of proof in on the prosecutor and we might be able to show it was reasonable you simply didn’t know it was stolen property.

Accident defense – In some cases, we might be able to make an argument you didn’t know you were in possession of stolen property. Perhaps the person who stole the property placed it in your home or vehicle without your knowledge. Perhaps someone was attempting to place you in a potential legal situation where you would get charged, due to motives such as anger or revenge. If we can show you unknowingly received stolen property, you have a good chance at avoiding a conviction.

 Contact our Criminal Defense Law Firm for Help

If you have been accused of receiving stolen property, you could be facing harsh legal consequences. Early intervention  by our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys at Cron, Israels & Stark can have a huge impact on the outcome of your case. Negotiation with the prosecutor may be possible. Our lawyers have decades of combined experience and will work aggressively for the best possible outcome. We serve clients throughout Southern California from our office located at 11755 Wilshire Blvd, 15th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90025. Contact us at 424-372-3112 to review the detail of your case and legal options.