Any theft crime can be seriously punished in California. Individuals can even face criminal charges if they are given property stolen by someone else. This action can be prosecuted under California Penal Code Section 469(a): Receiving Stolen Property.
You can get detailed information about the legal complications associated with a PC 496(a) charge from the Simmrin Law Group. If you’ve been charged with this crime, understanding your options could protect your future.
Receiving Stolen Property: California’s Legal Definition
Individuals can be charged under Penal Code 496(a) if they bought or otherwise acquired property that was stolen. PC Section 496(a) also applies if someone:
- Sells stolen property
- Conceals stolen property
- Withholds stolen property
In order to be convicted for receiving stolen property, an individual must be aware that they are handling stolen goods. If you do not know that the items are stolen and have no reason to reasonably suspect that they might be, you are not guilty of a violation. Individuals may face charges if they receive property after a petty theft, grand theft, robbery, or burglary.
Receiving Stolen Property: The Penalties for a Conviction
A violation under Penal Code Section 496(a) is considered a “wobbler.” That means that individuals can be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony if they are accused of receiving stolen property. Generally, the court must use misdemeanor charges if someone received stolen property worth less than $950.
The penalties for a conviction under PC 496(a) can vary greatly between a misdemeanor and a felony charge.
Misdemeanor Charges for Receiving Stolen Property
Even if you are only facing a misdemeanor charge under PC 496(a), you are still looking at some very serious consequences. Penalties for a misdemeanor conviction can result in:
- Up to one year in jail
- Up to $1,000 in fines
- Summary probation
Felony Charges for Receiving Stolen Property
The penalties for a felony charge rise steeply and can include:
- Up to three years in prison
- Up to $10,000 in fines
- Formal probation
Individuals convicted under PC 496(a) may also have to pay restitution to the legitimate owner of the stolen property.
Receiving Stolen Property: Examples
The following examples demonstrate situations covered by PC 496(a). See how this violation applies in different situations.
Man A is trying to buy a car online. He finds a listing for a car he likes in his price range and decides to purchase it. The seller is friendly enough and says he is selling his old car so he can buy a new vehicle. They complete their deal, only for the police to later show up at Man A’s house, saying that his new car was stolen.
He should not face PC 496(a) charges because he was unaware he was buying stolen property.
Man B is looking to buy a firearm. He knows there is a man down the street who sells guns without a lot of fuss or paperwork. He goes to visit the seller and is offered a few guns, all of which have their serial numbers filed off. He buys one of the guns.
Even though Man B did not know explicitly that the gun he bought was stolen, he could still be charged with receiving stolen property. He could face this charge due to the suspicious circumstances surrounding the sale of the gun.
Man C has a regular relationship with a group that steals cars. They bring him the vehicles, and he helps them resell the merchandise to other buyers. The setup works well for both groups until the police notice what they are doing. Man C could be charged under PC 496(a) because he knowingly received stolen property and then helped sell it to others.
Receiving Stolen Property: Related Offenses
There are many other charges that a person could face in relation to a violation of Penal Code 496(a). Some of these charges can be brought instead of a charge under PC 496(a), while others may be filed in addition to a violation of PC 496(a). The following are just a few of the additional charges that a defendant may likely face:
- California Penal Code Section 484(a) & 488: Petty Theft
- California Penal Code Section 487: Grand Theft
- California Penal Code Section 487(d)(1): Grand Theft Auto
- California Penal Code Section 487j: Grand Theft of Copper Materials
- California Penal Code Section 211: Robbery
- California Penal Code Section 459: Burglary
Receiving Stolen Property: Possible Legal Defenses
Accusations for a PC 496(a) violation can be difficult to successfully beat. Individuals who contact a professional Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer can increase their odds of combating these charges. Depending on the specifics of your situation, a lawyer may be able to argue several defenses. Some of the most common defenses used in these cases include:
- You received stolen property by accident
- You are facing false accusations
- You possessed the items with innocent intent
You Received Stolen Property by Accident
Individuals must know they are receiving stolen property to be convicted under PC 496(a). If an individual is given property they believe was legitimately acquired, they should not face a conviction for receiving stolen property.
You Are Facing False Accusations
Sometimes mistakes are made in the legal system. Individuals can be falsely accused of violating different laws, including PC 496(a). A criminal defense lawyer can go over your situation to assess the facts surrounding your case.
You Possessed the Items With Innocent Intent
If you received the items and at the time of reception you intended to return them to their rightful owner or hand them over to law enforcement, you have not violated PC 496(a). This can also apply if you receive the items without knowing that they were stolen but later make that discovery and then intend to hand them over.
However, this defense will not hold if, at some point after knowingly receiving the items, you change your mind about returning them.
The courts in Los Angeles can hand down stiff penalties for a PC 496(a) conviction, so it is important that you get help right away if you are facing these charges.
Receiving Stolen Property: Can a Conviction Be Expunged?
When convicted under California PC 496(a), there is the possibility to get your conviction expunged. To do so, you must first successfully complete your probation along with serving any jail sentence that you may have received.
Getting a conviction expunged from your record will result in the restoration of most of the rights that you lost upon sentencing. It can also make many areas of your life much easier, including finding work and finding accommodation if you need to move.
Receiving Stolen Property: Getting Professional Help
Individuals in California do not have to face charges under California Penal Code Section 469(a): Receiving Stolen Property on their own. The California criminal defense lawyers at Simmrin Law Group may be able to provide the help you need. You can contact us right now to get a free, no-obligation case evaluation.
Take control of your life after a PC 496(a) charge by completing our online contact form or giving us a call.