Receiving stolen goods is a serious crime in Virginia. Anyone convicted of this offense can be punished as harshly as the person who stole the items. It is important to retain a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
How can a person be found guilty of receiving stolen goods in Virginia?
A person is guilty of receiving stolen goods in Virginia if the person:
- Buys or receives stolen goods knowing the goods were stolen; or
- Aids in concealing any stolen goods or other thing knowing the same were stolen; or
- Buys or receives any goods or other thing used in the course of a criminal investigation by law enforcement that such person believes to have been stolen.
A person who is guilty of any of these acts can be found guilty of larceny. This means that the punishment is the same for receiving stolen goods is the same as it is for larceny. Receiving stolen goods is a violation of Virginia Code § 18.2-108.
If the person who stole the goods, also called the “principal offender” is not convicted, the state can still proceed against the person who received the stolen goods. This may occur in cases where the person who has been charged with receiving stolen goods was found with stolen property in their possession but the state does not have enough evidence to identify or prosecute the person or persons who actually stole the property. In some cases, a person who is accused of a crime will offer to testify against a co-defendant in exchange for a better plea deal.
Your attorney is entitled to information about whether the prosecution has offered a plea bargain for a lesser charge or any other incentive to any witnesses who may be called to testify against you.
What is the possible punishment for receiving stolen goods in Virginia?
The possible punishment for receiving stolen goods is the same as it is for larceny. Larceny is a felony if the value of the stolen goods or item is $500 or more and is a misdemeanor if the total value is less than $500.
- A person convicted of felony larceny or receiving stolen goods may be sentenced to one to twenty years in a state correctional facility or -- within the discretion of the court hearing the case or upon the recommendation of a jury -- up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
- A person convicted of misdemeanor larceny or receiving stolen goods may be sentenced to up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
- A person charged with possession of stolen goods may be allowed to plead guilty to a lesser offense or to serve a term of probation or a suspended sentence instead of prison time pursuant to a plea bargain.
A plea bargain is an agreement with the defense and the prosecution where the defendant pleads guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence or punishment. A person who has been sentenced to probation will be expected to abide by all terms and conditions of the sentence and to meet regularly with a supervising officer.
What are possible defenses to receiving stolen goods in Virginia?
The prosecution must prove each and every element of the case. If the prosecution fails to prove each and every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant must be found not guilty. There are a number of defenses that may be asserted in a receiving stolen goods case, such as lack of knowledge, lack of possession, and lack of intent.
Lack of Knowledge
To be guilty of receiving stolen goods, the state must prove that the defendant knew the goods were stolen. In many cases this is simple. If the state has direct evidence that the defendant knew the goods were stolen, such as a written or recorded statement from the principal offender conveying the fact that the goods were stolen, the knowledge element may be easy to prove.
In other cases, the evidence is not as clear. It can be very difficult for the state to prove that the defendant actually knew an item was stolen, so this is a common element to attack.
The prosecution may ask a jury to infer the defendant's knowledge from the circumstances that the state can prove. If the circumstances are highly suspicious, a person may be convicted of receiving stolen goods based on circumstantial evidence.
For example, if the defendant's roommate came home one day with a lot of expensive watches and asked the defendant to purchase a watch for a price that was obviously well below the item's market value, a reasonable person could infer that the defendant knew that the watch was stolen.
In cases that involve circumstantial evidence, the defendant may be able to assert facts to demonstrate that his belief that the items were not stolen was reasonable.
For example, in the previous example, if the defendant's roommate regularly bought and sold watches at a discount price, it might be reasonable for the defendant to assume that the items were not stolen. This is a question of fact for a judge or jury to decide.
Lack of Possession
To be guilty of receiving stolen goods, a defendant must receive or purchase the items that were allegedly stolen. In some cases, the fact that the items were not actually in the defendant's possession may be a defense.
For example, if the defendant was a passenger in a vehicle that was pulled over and law enforcement found a stolen gun, the defendant may be able to allege that he was not ever in possession of the gun and lacked knowledge that it was in the vehicle.
Lack of Intent
The state must demonstrate that the defendant -- who knew the property was stolen -- intended to receive the same stolen property.
If the defendant took the property with the intent of returning it to the rightful owner, the defendant may be found not guilty of receiving stolen property. The defendant must possess the intent to return the property at the time he or she takes possession of it.
- If the defendant took the property with the intent of keeping it but later had a change of heart, this defense will not work.
- Likewise, if the defendant intended to return the property at the time the defendant acquired it but then failed to return it or decided to keep it, asserting a defense based on lack of intent will fail.
What should I do if I have been accused of receiving stolen goods in Virginia?
If you have been accused of receiving stolen goods in Virginia, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. It is important to speak to an attorney before you do anything else to make sure that your rights are protected. Bryan J. Jones is an experienced lawyer who will fight for you to make sure that you receive the best outcome possible. Contact us online or call (434)260-7899.