You've probably heard about the sale of a property at a discounted pricing. Well, accepting these products is illegal and is referred to as receiving stolen property under California laws. It's a serious offense and can lead to severe consequences that might implicate your life.

It's recommendable to seek the help of a professional criminal attorney if you are facing charges for receiving stolen property. An attorney will help you evaluate your situation and help you uphold and fight for your rights. Please schedule an appointment with the Chula Vista Criminal Attorney today and learn how we can help you.

Definition of Receiving Stolen Property Under California Laws

Under California Penal Code 496, it's a crime to receive stolen property. A prosecutor must prove the following in these charges:

  • That you sold, aided in selling, bought, concealed, withheld, or concealed a property stolen from another person.
  • You knew that the property was obtained through extortion or was stolen.

Under this definition, some of the terms that arise include the following:

  • Stolen and extortion
  • Receive
  • Knowing that the goods were stolen

Let's have a closer look at these terms for a clear understanding.

Definition of Stolen and Extortion Under Penal Code 496 

Property is stolen when someone obtains it through:

  • Theft like embezzlement and larceny
  • Burglary under California Penal Code 459
  • Robbery under California Penal Code 211

Extortion is defined under California Penal Code 518. Under this statute, extortion refers to receiving property from another person without that person's consent using force or fear.

Definition of "Receive" Under Penal Code 496

Receiving a property refers to taking possession and control of it. One of the people involved does not have to be the sole possessor of the items in question. Under this statute, two or more people can possess an item at the same time.

You should also note that a person can "possess" a property without holding or touching it. The concept of "constructive possession" can have you charged for possessing goods if you have control over them and the right to control them.

For example, Janet keeps stolen jewelry in a kitchen cabinet in an apartment she shares with Jane. Since both of them are roommates, they have joint possession of the stolen jewelry. In this example, if Jane knows about the existence of the stolen jewelry, she violates Penal 496. However, if she's not knowledgeable of the jewelry, she's not in violation of this statute.

Knowing that the Property in Question was Stolen

You can only be guilty of violating Penal Code 496 if you knew that the goods about to receive were stolen. Business owners can also be convicted under this statute if they deal in a swap meet business with people whose primary business is collecting personal goods or merchandise and:

  • Acquired the property with a reasonable suspicion that it was stolen
  • Failed to inquire whether the property was stolen

Some of the businesses that run as swap-deal vendors include pawn shops, dealers in second-hand materials and metals, and people who buy, sell or receive vehicles or electronic equipment.

Please note, if you were asked to hold or deliver a package and you were unaware of its contents or had no reason to know whether the items were stolen, you're not guilty of violating this statute.

Conducting Due Diligence in Swap-Deal Vendor Business

If you're collecting junk metals or goods, you should conduct due diligence before acquiring a particular property. When there's a high suspicion that the seller cannot reasonably explain the source of the property, you shouldn't obtain the properties since they might expose you to criminal charges for receiving stolen properties.

In a case where a teenager is possessing loose diamonds or high-quality jewelry and says that his uncle asked him to sell them to you, you should contact that uncle and receive that the items are legitimately his. Otherwise, you might end up being accused of violating Penal Code 496.

The Penalties for Receiving Stolen Property in California

Receiving stolen goods in California is a wobbler. A misdemeanor carries the following penalties:

  • Summary or misdemeanor probation
  • A maximum fine of $1,000
  • A maximum of one year of custody in county jail

On the other hand, a felony conviction carries the following penalties:

  • Formal or felony probation
  • Custody in county jail for a maximum of three years
  • A maximum fine of $10,000

You can only face a misdemeanor charge if the total value of the property involved amounts to $950. You should also note that you can be prosecuted with multiple counts for receiving stolen properties if you received each property separately. However, receiving several items on the same occasion is a single count of violating Penal Code 496.

Apart from the fines, property owners can sue for up to three times the value of their stolen property. You might also have to pay the victim's attorney fees and court costs.

Other Consequences of Receiving Stolen Property in California

Receiving stolen property attracts several other penalties other than the one mentioned above. A conviction can negatively affect your immigration status since it's a crime that involves moral turpitude. Therefore, you can end up being deported or marked inadmissible.

A conviction can also affect your gun rights. Under California laws, felons are prohibited from purchasing, owning, or possessing a gun. Since a conviction for violating Penal Code 496 is a wobbler, a felony conviction can end up harming your gun's rights.

Terms and Conditions of Misdemeanor and Felony Conditions

As part of your sentence, the judge can convict you to a misdemeanor or felony probation in place of serving time in jail. A misdemeanor or summary probation is an alternative to serving jail in a misdemeanor case. In this probation, defendants are directly supervised by the court rather than a probation officer.

A defendant must periodically return to court to report their progress and show their compliance with the terms of the probation, like paying restitution, completing community service, and paying fines.  Apart from these terms and conditions, you might be required to adhere to the following:

  • Participating in a group or individual therapy
  • Seeking gainful employment
  • Showing up to all court dates
  • Submit to random drug testing
  • Refraining from violating any laws and any further arrest by law enforcement

Unlike misdemeanor probation, a person under felony probation is under the supervision of a probation officer. If you're involved in a nonviolent felony like receiving stolen property, the probation will last to a maximum of two years. During this period, you should adhere to the following terms and conditions:

  • Attending the required meetings with a probation officer
  • Performance of a community service
  • Community supervision
  • Agreeing to unwarranted police searches
  • An agreement not to violate any law
  • Payment of court costs
  • An agreement not to violate any law

Eligibility for Proposition 47 for Receiving Stolen Property

A defendant of California Penal Code 496 is eligible for Proposition 47. Under this law, defendants should be sentenced to misdemeanors instead of felonies if they're involved in nonviolent or non-serious crimes. However, eligible defendants must not have a prior conviction for certain sex offenses, gun crimes, murder, or rape.

Under Proposition 47, anyone currently serving a felony sentence without a prior violent or serious offense can be resentenced to a misdemeanor.

This means you can seek a reduction of your felony misdemeanor, even when all the factors associated with your prosecution are enough to have you prosecuted for a felony. However, you should meet all the requirements of lacking a prior conviction for a violent or serious crime to be eligible.

Expungement of a Conviction for Receiving Stolen Property

Receiving stolen property is a wobbler. Therefore, you're eligible for an expungement of your criminal record Under California Penal Code 1203.4. An expungement denies the general public from accessing your criminal record if a background check is performed. Therefore, a landlord or employer cannot see your arrest records if your criminal records are expunged.

A misdemeanor conviction has no significant effect on your civil rights, but employers, landlords, and some schools might still consider it. That's why it's recommendable to expunge your conviction if all factors allow.

A felony conviction can be expunged as long as you didn't serve time in the state prison. Luckily, a conviction for receiving stolen property doesn't provide time in state prison. Even so, you'll only be eligible for an expungement if you meet these and other conditions:

  • Complete all the terms and conditions of your probation
  • You have no pending criminal charges
  • You've not committed any offense after completing probation

Legal Defense Strategies for Receiving Stolen Properties in California

You can use several defense strategies to show that the prosecution lacks sufficient evidence to prosecute you for receiving stolen property. Your attorney should carefully evaluate your case and adopt the best defense strategies to help you dismiss or reduce your charges. Here are common defense strategies that you and your attorney can rely on. 

Lacked Knowledge That the Property Was Stolen

A good doesn't constitute stolen even when it lacks its serial number, or its price is way below the market value. You can also sustain the burden of proof about the credibility of a property after a seller gives a plausible explanation about its ownership. Remember, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you knew that the property was stolen. Therefore, fridge indications about the probability of it being stolen don't meet the prosecution criteria. 

Your Intention Was Innocent

Using this defense depends on whether you intended to return the stolen property to its rightful owner or the police after gaining possession of the stolen property. Most likely, a defendant intends to return a property to the seller or hand it over to its owner or the police after realizing that it was stolen.

However, if you had a change of heart to return the property after keeping the property for a while, knowing that it's stolen, this defense cannot work. You must demonstrate clear steps that you promptly took to return the property or alert the police. Waiting for a few days without doing anything might prove it difficult to convince the prosecution that you didn't intend to receive the property.

No Receipt of the Property

Recall that you must "receive" stolen items to be guilty of receiving stolen goods. Therefore, an accused cannot be guilty of this crime if he or she didn't receive the items. Perhaps you didn't have control over the property or possess them, making you innocent of this crime.

Claim of Right

You can argue to have a claim of right as your legal defense strategy if you truly believed that you had the right to that property. In this defense, you must have believed in good faith that you are eligible to take the property, even when you're unreasonably wrong about this. You must also have openly taken the property for this defense to work.

Involuntary Intoxication

Involuntary intoxication is a rare legal defense, but it can work when you receive the property under the influence of alcohol or drugs. However, your alcohol or drug influence must be involuntary. For instance, when someone drugs you at a large party and offers a Rolex watch for $200, which you purchase, you can rely on involuntary intoxication as your defense strategy.

In this situation, the prosecution will have difficulty proving that you had the requisite knowledge that the item was stolen to prosecute you under this statute. Again, you must not intend to keep the property after that to use this legal defense.

Related Charges

There are three major crimes related to receiving stolen goods in California. Judges tend to impose them along with these charges or in place of the allegations for receiving stolen property. Here is a closer look at these crimes:


California Penal Code 503 defines embezzlement as the unlawful taking of property that another person has entrusted to you to deprive the owner of its use.

Embezzlement is a wobbler, and its charges depend on the value of the property. A felony occurs if the property's value is more than $950, while a misdemeanor occurs when the property involved is worth $950 or less.

A misdemeanor carries the same punishment as petty theft, which has a maximum of six months of custody in county jail. A felony carries the same punishment as grand theft, which carries a maximum of three years in county jail.


California Penal Code 518 defines extortion or blackmail as using force or threats to compel another person to hand over property or money or make a public officer perform an official task.

California laws carve out different ways that someone can extort money from another person. For instance, under California Penal Code 522, it's a crime to extort someone by obtaining a signature.

Another form of extortion is defined under Penal Code 523. Under this statute, it's a crime to extort someone by writing a threatening letter.

Extortion is a felony in California with the following penalties:

  • Custody in jail or prison for a maximum of four years
  • A maximum fine of $10,000

Theft of Lost Property

Under California Penal Code 485, it's a crime to misappropriate lost property. You can be charged with this crime if you find lost property and keep it, despite the clues of identifying its rightful owner.

Theft of lost property is treated as petty theft or grand theft, depending on the property's value. You can be prosecuted with petty theft when the value of the property is $950 or less. This carries the following penalties:

  • Custody in county jail for a maximum of six months
  • A maximum fine of $1,000

Misappropriation of property worth more than $950 is charged as grand theft. Grand theft is a wobbler in California. A misdemeanor carries a maximum of one year of custody in county jail, while grand theft carries up to three years in jail. 

The Benefits of Hiring a Criminal Lawyer

When you're facing a criminal charge for receiving stolen goods in California, you might end up facing significant risks that may end up changing your life. The California justice system doesn't allow any mistake on their prosecution, regardless of whether your charges have any merit or not.

Unless you seek counsel for your defense, you might end up navigating through the complex legal process. A slight mistake can end up with significant consequences. Not only will you face legal risks, but you will also face them alone if you don't hire a professional criminal attorney.

Some might argue out that a public defender would be a suitable option while facing a criminal charge. As much as they are experienced, they cannot provide the level of attention that a private defender would guarantee. Hiring a Chula Vista criminal attorney comes with several advantages and can directly impact your case positively. Here are a few benefits of hiring a criminal defense lawyer to help you against your criminal charges.

Your Attorney Cares About You

While courts are trying to reduce the level of crime in society, an attorney has the task of advocating for your rights. The job of a private attorney is to protect your rights whether you make a plea bargain or your case goes to trial.

An experienced attorney will assess your situation and develop an action plan that will increase the possibility of a positive outcome.

Attorneys are Experts in Defending their Clients

A private criminal attorney has one task: defending their clients against their criminal charges. In that case, they devote their time and energy to building a solid legal defense strategy for you. An experienced attorney is educated in criminal laws and an expert in the judicial system.

Hiring a lawyer provides you with both skilled representation. Your attorney will examine the facts of your case and utilize their knowledge to mitigate the risks of a conviction.

An Attorney Reduces the Possibilities of Facing Hefty Penalties

There's a lot at stake after a conviction of receiving stolen property in California. Therefore, you should take the necessary action to reduce the likelihood of a sentence. You probably think your innocence exempts you from a sentence, but the prosecution will advocate for harsh penalties if your case goes to trial.

An attorney increases the possibility of acquitting any false charges made against you and protects you from unfair sentencing when you’re found guilty.

Immediate Actions Can Result in Mitigation

The faster you intervene in the charges made against you, the higher the chances of being successful. An omission of a fact of your case can be taken as an admission of a particular action. Therefore, the more you delay hiring an attorney, the longer you'll be allowing prosecutors to build a strong case against you.

Hiring an Attorney Has Long-Term Financial Benefits

It might seem contradictory when stating that hiring a criminal attorney reduces the costs related to a criminal charge in the end. A criminal charge can subject you to harsh fines, court fees, and other fees. It also puts you away from your regular work and limits your chances of earning.

Furthermore, there are high chances of serving time in jail, which increases your lost wages if you don’t have any legal representation. Hiring an attorney may cost a certain amount of money; it's financially efficient to hire an attorney to defend you from the charges made against you.

Find a Chula Vista Criminal Lawyer Near Me

Receiving stolen property is a specific intent crime. This means that you must understand the items in your possession were stolen, intended to keep them, and whether you had control over the property. All these defense strategies must be proven beyond reasonable doubts.

Our Chula Vista Criminal Attorney will learn about the facts surrounding your case and will do his or her best to prove these elements to the prosecutors. There are several instances when you can obtain or engage in a deal that involves stolen goods. That's why it's crucial to seek the help of a professional attorney to reduce the possibilities of a conviction. If you want to learn more about how we can help, call us at 619-877-6894 for a free non-obligatory consultation.