Defense for Penal Code 496: Receiving Stolen PropertyIt is a crime in the State of California to buy, conceal, receive, sell or withhold from the owner any piece of property known to have been stolen. California’s Penal Code 496 is the state’s law concerning stolen property and receiving it. The legal definition of receiving stolen property in California revolves around three “elements of the crime.” The prosecutor must prove—beyond a reasonable doubt— that the elements were present for the defendant to be found guilty of this offense. The following are the three elements of receiving stolen property, in accordance with California Penal Code 496: The defendant must have aided in selling, bought, concealed, received, sold or withheld from the owner of the property; when the defendant did the aforementioned he or she must have known that the property had been stolen or obtained by extortion; and the defendant knew of the presence of the property.

Examples of Receiving Stolen Property
Per California Penal Code 496, the following are just a couple of examples of individuals who could be charged and convicted of the crime of receiving stolen property:

  • A wife helps her husband hide money that he recently took from his place of employment, knowing that that is where the money came from.
  • A man who makes a living selling and re-selling used electronics buys a large number of cellphone he knows were stolen by the one selling them but wants to make a profit off them anyway.
  • A man is caught driving a stolen motorcycle; the police suspect he may have stolen the motorcycle himself, but since law enforcement does not have enough evidence to prove he stole it, they charge him with receiving stolen property instead.

Penalties for Violating Penal Code 496
If someone in California is found to have received stolen property, thus in violation of Penal Code 496, he or she may either be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. Receiving stolen property is charged as a misdemeanor offense in California when the amount of the property in question has a value of $950 or less. If convicted of a misdemeanor offense for receiving stolen property, the person could possibly be sentenced to up to a year in jail and may also have to pay a fine of up to $1,000. A felony conviction for receiving stolen property in California could result in a jail sentence of up to three years and a fine of up to $10,000.

Raising a defense
If you have been charged in California with receiving stolen property, it is important to take the charge seriously. It is advisable to hire a skilled criminal defense attorney who has experience defending someone charged with violating Penal Code 496. The defense lawyer will review your case and the possible legal defenses that could be used to fight the charges. Maybe, you did not know know the property was stolen or you did not know that the stolen property was even in your possession. Perhaps, you planned to return the property to its rightful owner or intended to turn the property to the police.