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Receiving Stolen Property - Elements

knowledge person possession receiver

Receiving stolen property is defined by statute in most states. Generally it consists of four elements: (1) the property must be received; (2) it must have been previously stolen; (3) the person receiving the property must know it was stolen; and (4) the receiver must intend to deprive the owner of his or her property.

A person receives stolen property by acquiring or taking manual possession of it. Physical possession, however, is not always required. Under some statutes, it is sufficient if the accused has exercised control over the property. For example, a statute may declare that paying for the property constitutes control, regardless of whether the accused has handled it.

In many jurisdictions a belief that the property is stolen satisfies the knowledge element. It has been held that a mere suspicion does not constitute knowledge. Some statutes provide that a person has knowledge if he knows, or has reason to know, that goods are stolen. Another test is whether a reasonable person would suspect that the property was stolen. Knowledge is commonly proved by the circumstances surrounding the receipt of the property. For example, unexplained possession of goods that were recently stolen raises a presumption that the possessor received them illegally.

In order to be guilty, the receiver must intend to deprive the owner of the property. The crime is committed even if the receiver intends to obtain a reward for returning the property because she has gained a benefit from depriving the owner of possession, even temporarily.

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