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Possession of Stolen Property

  • California Penal Code 496

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California Bondsman for Possession of Stolen Property

California Penal Code 496

Possession of stolen property in California, as defined by Penal Code section 496, involves any person who buys, receives, conceals, sells or withholds any property that they know is stolen. There are three elements to this crime – that property was stolen, the accused person received the property and that the accused person knew the property was stolen. The key to this crime is whether the person knows the property was stolen, or should have reasonably suspected that the property was stolen. Possession of stolen property is considered a wobbler. It will be charged as a felony or misdemeanor depending on the value of the item stolen. If a person possesses a stolen item worth $400 or more, then the District Attorney’s office will charge felony possession of stolen property. If the value of the stolen item is less than $400, then the District Attorney’s office will charge misdemeanor possession of stolen property.

A person is not allowed to be convicted of both theft and possession of stolen property. Therefore, the District Attorney’s office will often charge possession of stolen property in cases where they suspect someone has stolen the property, but can’t actually prove the theft. The maximum penalty for misdemeanor possession of stolen property is one year county jail; the maximum penalty for felony possession of stolen property is three years state prison.

Furthermore, receiving stolen property can mean more than actual possession. A person can be guilty of this crime for constructive possession of stolen property as well. Actual possession is when someone has the property on them. Constructive possession is when someone is in control of the property. For example, if there was stolen property in your bedroom, then you’re in constructive possession of the property, even if you’re not in the house, because you control the contents of your bedroom. If you share the bedroom with someone else, then both of you have constructive possession of the stolen property and both of you can be charged with the same crime. However, merely being near stolen property or having access to stolen property is not a crime.

Clues that law enforcement to use to prove this knowledge include evidence that an item was purchased for far less than its actual value, or possessing an item that has the serial number destroyed.

Common defenses to possession of stolen property include: not knowing the property was stolen, believing the property was rightfully yours, or not realizing you had possession of stolen property (for example, someone put stolen property in your house or car without your knowledge).