It is against the law to take property from someone with the intent to permanently deprive them of it. That’s larceny in Virginia, and it can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor.
However, Virginia law also criminalizes receiving stolen property, which might surprise people. If you receive something that was stolen (i.e. stolen property), you could be arrested and face some very serious penalties. Our Richmond theft crimes attorney explains how to beat these charges.
What Does the Law Criminalize?
Va. Code §18.2-108 is the relevant provision. It makes the following illegal if you know the goods are stolen:
- You buy stolen goods
- You receive stolen goods
- You conceal stolen goods
Even if the person who stole the goods is not prosecuted or convicted, you could be. The law explicitly states that.
Penalties are the same as for larceny and will depend on the value of the stolen goods. If they are worth less than $1,000, you could be facing a misdemeanor charge, which carries up to a year in jail and fines. If the goods are worth $1,000 or more, then you are facing a felony charge.
If you have previous larceny convictions, then you could be looking at even more serious penalties. For example, a third conviction for petit larceny could result in prison time as a felon.
How Can You Defend this Type of Charge?
There are several options for fighting back against these charges, and criminal defendants should not assume that they are automatically going to be convicted. Let’s look at a few.
First, the goods must have been stolen. This means the prosecutor must prove that someone took them with the intent to permanently deprive the real owner of the property. This step is not as easy as it seems, especially if the thief was not convicted for the crime. If there’s reasonable doubt as to whether the goods were stolen, then you can’t be convicted.
Second, the law requires that you know the goods were stolen. You might go to a flea market and buy something, not knowing whether the seller is the true owner. The law does not require that you investigate whether goods were stolen before buying or receiving them. Because our clients often lack the required mental state, they can successfully defend against this type of criminal charge.
However, if you helped someone steal something and concealed it, then you can more easily be convicted. You also might have reason to suspect goods were stolen. If a ring has someone else’s name engraved on it, then you have reason to be suspicious.
Third, the goods might be worth less than the prosecutor thinks. If they are worth less than $1,000, we can get a felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor.
What Steps Should I Take if Accused of Receiving Stolen Property?
The first thing is to not talk to the police. For example, you might let slip that you suspected the goods were stolen when you bought or received them. This admission is probably not enough, by itself, to convict you, since you don’t know with certainty that they were stolen goods. But the admission does not help you, in any event.
Second, try to reconstruct the circumstances of buying or receiving the goods. What did the seller say to you? Did you have reason to suspect the goods were stolen? How much did you pay? Did you pay market value?
Next, meet with an experienced Richmond theft crimes lawyer to review the charges. At Del Rio Law, PLLC, our attorneys have successfully represented defendants in these types of cases. The prosecutor’s evidence is often weaker than many people realize, and we can fight for the best resolution possible.