As it is traditionally portrayed, theft often involves an item being stolen outright. A television show might display a robber grabbing a woman’s handbag, or someone shoplifting from a convenience store. However, theft comes in many forms, and it is possible to be arrested for simply receiving stolen property. If you have been charged with this crime, you may feel very confused and frightened. You may also be worried about the consequences of a conviction, which can include fines and jail time.
Houston theft lawyer Ned Barnett knows that people are often falsely accused of receiving stolen property. Perhaps you were not aware that the item was stolen when you bought it, or maybe you had no idea that the property was in your possession. With over 30 years of experience in the courtroom, attorney Barnett will meticulously review your case and can help you craft a defense.
To find out how you can avoid a criminal record, call (713) 222-6767 today.
In Texas, theft, in its most basic form, is defined as taking another person’s property without their consent. The intention to deprive the owner of the property is also a key element of this crime. However, according to section 31.02 of the Texas Criminal Code, receiving stolen property is also considered theft. There are many situations in which this crime might take place.
Those who own pawn shops and second-hand stores often fall victim to accusations of receiving stolen property. In fact, state law specifically notes that these businesses can be guilty in engaging in this type of illicit activity. You can also be charged with theft if you purchase stolen items as a consumer. While this type of thievery causes serious problems, it is hard to know when it has been committed. If you purchase an item that was previously stolen, you may not know that it was obtained illegally.
Actual and Constructive Knowledge
In a criminal case involving the receipt of stolen property, the key to reaching a conviction is proving that the individual knew the item was stolen. Instead of relying on the fact that the property was in your possession, the prosecution must prove that you were aware of the item’s origins when you purchased it; it must be shown that you had actual or constructive knowledge of the item being stolen. You might have actual knowledge that an item was stolen when you hear a story on the news, or if the person who sells you the item tells you that they snatched in from another person’s house.
On the other hand, constructive knowledge is the idea that you should have known that the item was stolen. If for example, you purchase a gaming console from a pawn shop that is notorious for selling stolen goods, the court may decide that you are guilty of theft; they may decide that you should have known about the item’s origin. You might also be accused of possessing constructive knowledge if you purchase an item off the black market, or from a shady character on a street corner.
If you are in the business of buying and selling used goods, the criteria for proving that you had knowledge of a theft are more clearly outlined. It is assumed that you are aware that an item is stolen when they pay more than $25 for the property and engage in one of the following activities:
- Failing to record the seller’s identifying information, such as their name, driver’s license number, address, and physical description
- Entering a description of the property that is incomplete or non-existent
- Failing to obtain proof of ownership, such as a warranty that lists the seller as the rightful owner
Criminal and Collateral Consequences
In most cases, receiving stolen property is treated just as harshly as typical theft. Texas law punishes this crime according to the value of the stolen property. For example, stealing an item that is worth less than $100 would be charged as a Class C misdemeanor, whereas taking an item that is valued between $750 and $2,500 would be labeled as a Class A misdemeanor. Theft penalties include, but are not limited to:
- Less than $100 (Class C Misdemeanor): A fine of up to $500.
- Between $100 and $750 (Class B Misdemeanor): A fine of up to $2,000 and up to 180 days in jail.
- Between $750 and $2,500 (Class A Misdemeanor): A fine of up to $4,000 and up to one year in jail.
- Between $2,500 and $30,000 (State Jail Felony): A fine of up to $10,000 and between 180 days and two years in state jail.
- Between $30,000 and $150,000 (Third Degree Felony): A fine of up to $10,000 and between two and 10 years of imprisonment.
- Between $150,000 and $300.000 (Second Degree Felony): A fine of up to $10,000 and between two and 20 years in prison.
- $300,000 or more (First Degree Felony): A fine of up to $10,000 and between five and 99 years or life in prison.
If you are found guilty of receiving stolen property, you may have to face a number of unexpected obstacles. Once you have a criminal record, for example, it may be all but impossible to find a decent job. Most employers see a theft conviction as a giant red flag. If you decide that you want to switch career paths, it may be very difficult to obtain training through college or vocational school. This is because many institutions of higher learning thoroughly vet applicants before they are admitted.
Defending Your Rights in Court
One of the most effective defense strategies in a receiving stolen property case is proving that you did not have actual or constructive knowledge of the theft in question. It might be the case that you purchased the item from a reputable online dealer, one who is respected within the business community. If this is the case, it may be possible to prove that you had no involvement in stealing the item. Proving that you were unaware that the item was in your possession is another option for protecting your freedom. Perhaps it was dumped on your property without your knowledge, or maybe it was planted on your person during an outing or family event.
Contact the Law Offices of Ned Barnett
Houston criminal defense attorney Ned Barnett has over two decades of experience in helping people fight their criminal charges. Whether you are being accused of a misdemeanor or a felony, he can use his knowledge and skill to fight for your interests in court. He can make sure that your side of the story is cast in a positive light.
If you would like to take action and fight your charges, call (713) 222-6767 for a free consultation.