In Pennsylvania, you do not actually have to steal something to be charged with a theft crime. You can also be charged with a theft offense if you receive stolen property. This is among the most commonly charged offenses in the Commonwealth.
If you are facing charges of receiving stolen property, the first thing you should do is to consult with a criminal defense lawyer in West Chester, PA at DiCindio Law. Your attorney can work to minimize your sentence, reduce your charges, or dismiss the case against you. You should also try to learn about your charges. Understanding the laws and penalties in Pennsylvania for receiving stolen property can help you to assess your risks if you are convicted.
What is receiving stolen property in Chester County, Pennsylvania?
Under 18 Pa.CS § 3925, you can be charged with receiving stolen property if you either know or reasonably believe that an item was stolen and intentionally receive, keep, or dispose of the movable property of someone else.
The movable property includes items that can be physically taken or carried away. For example, this might include televisions, gaming systems, jewelry, or stereos, among other items. To be convicted of this crime, you must either have known that it was stolen or had a reason to believe so.
Having a reason to believe an item was stolen
If you have a good reason to believe something was stolen and fail to return it or tell authorities about your suspicions, you could be charged with receiving stolen property in Pennsylvania. For example, if you have needed a new laptop for several months and see a top-of-the-line laptop listed on Facebook Marketplace that is unopened and new, you might have a good reason to believe it is stolen if the price is well below market value.
If you go ahead and purchase the laptop without asking about how the seller obtained it or why he or she didn’t simply return it to the store, you could be charged with receiving stolen property even though you were not directly told that it was stolen.
You do not have to be told that an item was stolen to be charged with a crime. If specific factors should have alerted you to the fact that it was likely stolen, you can be criminally charged. In the example given above, the ridiculously low price, the fact that the laptop was new and still in the box, and the fact that the seller didn’t simply return it to the store to get his or her full purchase price back should all indicate that the laptop was likely stolen from a store.
Are there any exceptions?
The law contains only one exception, and if it applies, you cannot be convicted of receiving stolen property. If you received or retained the property with the intent to return it to the owner, it is an affirmative defense. However, you will have the burden of proving that this was your intention to prevail with this defense.
Penalty gradations for receiving stolen property In Chester County, PA
The penalties and offense classifications for receiving stolen property depend on the value of the stolen property.
If you are convicted of this offense, you can face the following penalties:
- Property under $50 – Third-degree misdemeanor with up to one year in jail and up to a $2,500 fine
- Property from $50 to $199.99- Second-degree misdemeanor with up to two years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine
- Property from $200 to $1,999.99 – First-degree misdemeanor with up to five years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine
- Property from $2,000 and up – Third-degree felony carrying up to 7 years in prison and a maximum fine of $15,000
Defenses to charges of receiving stolen property
A good criminal defense attorney in West Chester, PA can analyze the reports and evidence in your case to figure out the best defense strategies under the circumstances. If your attorney can show that the prosecutor does not have sufficient evidence to prove any of the elements of the charge, the case will likely be dismissed.
- Insufficient proof that the property was stolen – While there might be several indications that an item was stolen, they do not necessarily prove that you were aware of that. For example, if you asked the seller how he or she obtained the property and were given a plausible explanation, the prosecutor might not be able to prove this element. If the seller misled you about the item’s origin, you can assert this defense.
- Insufficient proof that you possessed the stolen property – The prosecutor must also prove that you knowingly possessed stolen property. If you had something stolen at your home and live with several roommates, you might be able to raise this defense if it was unclear which person received the item. This defense might also be available if you simply happened to visit the wrong place at the wrong time and were charged with possessing stolen property that was located there.
- Intent to return stolen property – If you received stolen property with the intent to return it to its owner or had planned to contact the authorities, this defense might be available. However, if you originally intended to keep the stolen property but subsequently changed your mind, this defense will not apply. Your attorney will need to be able to show that you always intended to do the right thing with the property.
Get help from a criminal defense attorney near me
If you have been charged with receiving stolen property, you should get help from a theft defense attorney at DiCindio Law as soon as possible. Michael DiCindio has successfully defended many people against misdemeanor and felony charges and understands how to build a strong defense case. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation by calling us at (610) 430-3535.