Purchasing and Receiving Stolen Property
Posted by Scott Gorman - July 30, 2017

Stealing is wrong. It’s one of the first things you learn when you’re old enough to understand the concept. Taking someone else’s toys and crayons at the childhood level or escalating to property or money or vehicles in adulthood—we know these actions are wrong. But what happens if you purchase something that someone else has stolen or receive a stolen item as a gift? The legal ramifications may seem a little less clear here, so we’ve tried to outline the laws New Jersey has in place.

If you are charged with receiving stolen property, you could face significant penalties—even if you are not the person who did the taking. New Jersey’s statutes regarding this crime include a potential penalty of up to ten years behind bars, so this is definitely a charge that should be taken seriously. However, defenses are available to protect those who have been given goods or items without knowing that the items are stolen.

New Jersey Statutes

According to N.J.S.A. 2C:20-7, a person can be charged with theft if he or she knowingly receives or transports property that belongs to another person with the knowledge that this property has been obtained illegally. This charge can also apply when the person believes that the property may have been obtained illegally. In this statute, “receiving” means any instance of acquiring possession, control, title, or lending on a property security.

What matters most here is whether you knew the property was stolen when you received it or took it. For example, if your friend gives you a guitar as a gift, and makes allusions to the fact that he may have “lifted” it, or gotten a “five-finger discount,” it’s reasonable to assume that the guitar was stolen, and that you are receiving stolen property. This can implicate you, and lead to criminal charges of your own if the police find you in possession of the stolen goods.

However, if your friend made no mention of stealing or lifting the guitar, and simply wrapped it up and gave it to you as a gift, you would have much more reason to believe that the guitar was purchased legitimately. In this scenario, you can use your lack of knowledge about the crime to defend against potential criminal charges for receiving stolen property.

The law outlines a few cases in which the courts will assume that a person knew property was stolen when it was given, including the following scenarios:

  1. If the person is found in possession or control of two or more items that have been previously stolen, on two or more separate occasions.
  2. If the person had previously received stolen property within the same year as the present charge.
  3. If the person is in the business of buying or selling property that may have been stolen, or is in the business of acquiring property and items without checking to ensure that the goods have been obtained legally.

Receiving stolen goods can be just as dangerous, legally speaking, as stealing the goods yourself. For more information on this charge, contact Scott Gorman, a leading criminal defense lawyer at Essex County The Gorman Law Firm, today.

Published in Categories: Criminal Defense