Receiving Stolen Property
ElementsDefenses, Punishment, Civil Remedies, Federal Law
The offense of acquiring goods with the knowledge that they have been stolen, extorted, embezzled, or unlawfully taken in any manner.
The earliest statute that made receiving stolen property a crime was enacted in England in 1692. It provided that the receiver—the person who accepts the property—should be deemed an ACCESSORY after the fact to the theft. The crime became a separate substantive offense in 1827, and it has been similarly treated in a majority of U.S. jurisdictions.
An honest, although mistaken, belief that property is not stolen is a defense to the crime of receiving stolen property. Intoxication is another defense, but the intoxication must be severe enough to prevent any knowledge that the property was stolen. Infancy and insanity are also good defenses.
The punishment for receiving stolen property is a fine or imprisonment. The term of years imposed varies from state to state. In jurisdictions where value is an element of the offense, the severity of the penalty is commensurate with the value of the goods. Where value is not an element, it might still be significant in determining the severity of the punishment.
In a majority of states, the person whose property was stolen may bring a conversion action against the receiver of stolen property. If the accused is found to have converted the property, the victim has a choice of remedies. The victim may demand that the accused return the stolen property or may require the accused to pay the full value of the property at the time it was converted.
Receiving stolen property is proscribed by federal statute (18 U.S.C.A. § 662) when it occurs within the maritime or territorial jurisdiction of the United States or when such property has moved in interstate commerce.