Knowledge and Stolen Property

Knowledge and Stolen Property

This week the Law Office of Christopher Martens learned some good news that an appeal brought on behalf of one of the firm's clients successfully resulted in the dismissal of the charge of receiving stolen property in People v. Young http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/nonpub/F067277.PDF Our client was charged and convicted of receiving stolen property because a gun in his possession happened to have been stolen by someone else. The Appellate Court, however, found that his mere possession of the gun, which happened to be stolen property, did not alone support a conviction for receiving stolen property because on one important element: knowledge.

Knowledge that an item of personal property in the accused's possession is stolen property is not incidental to the charge of receiving stolen property, but it is in fact an essential element that the DA must prove in order for a conviction to stand. Imagine if I stole strawberries and I gave someone a box of the same strawberries without telling hem where I got them. If that person accepted the box of strawberries from me and ate some, would they have any reason to know that the strawberries were stolen? In this example the other person would need to be aware that I stole the strawberries in order to be convicted of receiving stolen strawberries.

In the underlying case the Appellate case the Court determined that the evidence presented did not show that our client had any knowledge that the gun in his possession was stolen, which means that the prosecution failed to present evidence and, as a result, that conviction cannot stand. If anyone suspects that someone is trying to give them stolen property, they should refuse to accept it. Even so, if that person has no reason to know that some personal property in their possession is or was stolen, then they have no reason to worry about being convicted of receiving stolen property, and that is good news.

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