Is Receiving Stolen Property a Felony?
Even if you were not directly responsible for taking someone else’s property, you can be charged with a crime for receiving or possessing stolen goods. In some cases, receiving stolen property or goods can be a felony.
If convicted, you could face incarceration and the impact of a felony charge on your record. Many people don’t realize how serious receiving stolen property is until they’ve been charged. Learn more about the charges against you, potential penalties, and how a theft defense lawyer can help.
Understanding Receiving Stolen Property Charges in North Carolina
Receiving stolen property or possessing stolen goods is a crime under North Carolina General Statutes §14-72. The elements of the offense include the following:
- The property was stolen
- The defendant possessed stolen property
- The defendant knew or had reasonable grounds to know the property was stolen
- The defendant possessed the property with a dishonest purpose
For example, you may be charged if someone steals a cell phone and you purchase it from them for far less than the usual market value, knowing or reasonably knowing it was stolen.
Claiming you didn’t commit or authorize the theft is not a valid defense. You can be charged if you accepted the stolen property after knowing it was stolen by someone else.
Penalties for Receiving Stolen Property
While receiving stolen property is often a misdemeanor charge, it can be a felony in some cases. The charge depends on the value and type of stolen property.
Can Receiving Stolen Property Be a Felony in North Carolina?
If the stolen property is valued at $1,000 or less, the crime of receiving stolen property is a class one misdemeanor. Defendants convicted with no prior history could be sentenced to up to 45 days in jail, while those with priors could face up to 120 days.
The charge becomes much more serious is the stolen property is valued at more than $1,000. If this is the case, the charge is elevated to a Class H felony, carrying a sentence of up to 25 months.
A felony charge also applies in the following instances regardless of the stolen property’s value:
- The property is taken directly from someone’s person
- The property is a firearm or explosive
- The property was stolen during a burglary or breaking and entering
- The defendant has four prior larceny-related convictions
North Carolina Sentencing Guidelines for Receiving Stolen Property
Aside from the value of the stolen property, several factors can influence whether receiving stolen property is charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Both can involve jail time, probation, or both. In addition, both levels can have collateral consequences and affect your ability to find stable employment, housing, and pursue higher education.
Judges may assess a range of based on misdemeanor or felony sentencing guidelines. Factors considered include:
- Whether firearms or other weapons were involved
- The defendant’s criminal history, if any
- The defendant’s knowledge and intent
- Whether anyone was injured in the commission of the crime
Defenses for Receiving Stolen Property
Lack of Knowledge
A common defense in receiving stolen property cases is showing that you did not know the property was stolen. Since an essential element of the charge against you is proving you intended to receive stolen property, your attorney can argue to get the charges against you dismissed or reduced if you weren’t aware the property had been taken unlawfully.
The prosecution’s case may rely on a mistake of fact. For example, say the charges rely on witness testimony and the witness wrongfully identified you as the suspect. In that case, your attorney can challenge the testimony and point out weaknesses in the case against you.
The conditions of a receiving stolen property offense are outlined in North Carolina’s General Statutes. If the prosecutor does not have enough evidence to prove that you meet all the elements of the charge, you may be able to get the charges reduced or dismissed.
Alternative Punishments in Receiving Stolen Property Cases
Being convicted of receiving stolen property can bring serious consequences, especially in felony cases. But just because you’re charged doesn’t mean you’ll face the maximum sentence. A criminal defense lawyer can explain your legal options, which might include any of the following:
- Negotiating a plea in exchange for leniency
- Agreeing to complete probation, house arrest, or a diversion program
- Advocating for a reduced sentence
Having an attorney on your side who knows the ins and outs of the local court system can be beneficial. They can successfully negotiate with the prosecutor to help you avoid a conviction or reduce the charges.
Can You Get a Receiving Stolen Property Conviction Expunged?
If convicted, you may be able to reduce the impact of the offense on your record. Even a felony conviction for receiving stolen property may be eligible for expungement in some circumstances.
Call Randall & Stump if You’ve Been Charged with Receiving Stolen Property
You may not know what to do next after being charged with receiving stolen property. It can be especially scary if you had no idea the goods you bought were stolen. A felony conviction can change your life forever, so it is crucial to seek legal help right away to give you the best chance of avoiding the harshest penalties.
The attorneys at Randall & Stump, Criminal Defense Attorneys have decades of experience advocating for criminal defendants charge in theft cases in North Carolina. Our team will work hard to come up with an effective defense strategy and protect your rights.