What Happens if I Receive Stolen Goods?

Receiving property that someone else stole can carry the same penalties as theft in North Carolina. A person commits the offense of receiving stolen property when they receive stolen goods knowing they were stolen and with a dishonest purpose. Prosecutors can pursue misdemeanor or felony charges for receiving stolen property, depending on the circumstances. The penalties for those convicted include jail time or less severe punishments like probation or community service.

The Elements of the Crime of Receiving Stolen Property

The elements of the crime of receiving stolen property in North Carolina are found in North Carolina General Statutes §14-72, which is North Carolina’s general larceny law. There is a separate provision in North Carolina General Statutes §14-71. Under both of these statutes, an individual commits the crime of receiving stolen goods when the following conditions are met:

  • Someone other than the defendant stole the good
  • The defendant received or concealed the stolen good
  • The defendant knew or had reasonable grounds to know that the property was stolen at the time they received or concealed it;
  • The defendant received or concealed the property with a dishonest purpose

For example, if person A steals a laptop and sells it to person B, person B can be changed if they know or have grounds to know the laptop was stolen.

What Does “Knows or Has Reasonable Grounds to Know” Mean?

The court defines “knows or has reasonable grounds to know” in a broad sense. An individual does not need to know the good was stolen to be convicted of receiving stolen property in North Carolina. The prosecutor can attempt to prove that the defendant has reasonable grounds to know that the property was stolen. Common indicators that the good may have been stolen include the following:

  • The price of the good was substantially lower than its fair market value
  • The packaging of the good indicates that it was stolen. For example, if the seller says the laptop is brand new and it is wrapped in a generic bag, the packaging could indicate that it was stolen
  • The location of the transaction indicates the good is stolen. For example, the transaction occurs in a parking lot or another concealed location.
  • The details of the property suggest the item was stolen. For example, an individual buys a car with a scratched-off serial number without a title
Prosecutors Must Prove Specific Intent

The prosecutor must prove that the defendant had the specific intent to convict a defendant for receiving stolen property in North Carolina. They must show that the defendant received or concealed the stolen property “with a dishonest purpose.” Having a dishonest purpose means that the defendant aided the thief with the intent to help permanently deprive the true property owner of their property. Prosecutors can prove specific intent with direct and circumstantial evidence. Your defense attorney can gather evidence to argue that you did not know the goods were stolen and could not have reasonably known.

The Penalties for Receiving Stolen Property in North Carolina

Receiving stolen property is a Class 1 misdemeanor if the value of the stolen goods does not exceed $1,000. In these cases, if the defendant is found guilty, they face a jail sentence between one and 120 days, depending on whether the defendant has prior convictions. First-time offenders can receive up to 45 days of community punishment, which is less severe than serving prison time. An example of community punishment would include community service and probation.

However, the court has the authority to sentence a repeat offender to a longer sentence, which could include jail time. Prosecutors can charge receiving stolen property as a Class H felony when the value of the stolen goods exceeds $1,000, or the goods were stolen in circumstances that resulted in felony-level larceny occurring, regardless of the value of the stolen goods. Class H felony charges carry a sentence of up to 25 months.

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney in Charlotte

The most common legal defense to receiving stolen goods focuses on whether you knew or reasonably should have known that the property was stolen. You may argue that you did not know or could not have known that the goods you received were stolen. Additionally, you may be able to raise the legal defense of mistaken identity. For example, you may have been wrongly identified as the suspect by a mistaken witness. If you are facing criminal charges in North Carolina, contact the skilled defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, to schedule a free consultation.