In this economy, most of us are on the lookout for a good deal. Websites like Craigslist are a go-to for a lot of people when they need something–furniture, electronics, used cars–and don’t want to purchase these items from a retailer. These websites put sellers directly in touch with individuals, which usually means that you can purchase an item cheaper than you could in a retail store. However, whether it is from a website, or the proverbial “guy”, there is such a thing as too good of a deal, and that can have consequences.
Possession of Stolen Property
Have you ever wanted something that you just couldn’t afford? Maybe it was the new IPad, but you just couldn’t swing it. All of a sudden you get the offer of a lifetime, that $800 IPad could be yours for just $200! The person selling it might not say why it is so cheap, or they give a quick story about having gotten two as a gift, and even though you know that it sounds too good to be true… Well, why not, it’s not like your doing anything wrong is it? Unfortunately for a number of people, the answer is yes, you are.
Most people know that if you take something that doesn’t belong to you, you are committing a crime: theft. And plenty of people steal just for themselves. However, especially with the increase in the heroin epidemic, more and more people are stealing things for the purpose of selling them to others. An individual who purchases stolen property may not condone the theft, but figures that since they didn’t steal anything, that they aren’t to blame. This is not true, and can lead to you being charged with the crime of Possession of Stolen Property. Depending on the value of the item(s), this can be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony.
Sometimes deals can be too good to be true, and other times people really are in need of money quickly are doing whatever they can to raise it. The good news is, if you were one of the unlucky individuals to buy something that was stolen, you do have a legal defense. To be convicted of Possession of Stolen Property, the State must prove three things. First, that the item in questions was actually stolen. Two, that the defendant bought/received/took possession of said item. And finally, that the defendant knew that the item was stolen. In cases like these, the third element is typically the most important. When purchasing something from someone online, for example from Craigslist, e-mail communication with the seller can be helpful in demonstrating that you believed the individual to be the lawful owner of the item. For bigger ticket items, such as cars, ATVs, scooters, ask to see proof of ownership, and fill out the proper paperwork to change the title. In addition, paying a price similar to it’s actual value can also be a mitigating circumstance. It is more difficult to convince a prosecutor or a jury that you honestly believed you were buying a brand new $1,000 TV still in the box for $100, and that you didn’t think there was anything shady going on.
Some items, like power tools and electronics, are more likely to be stolen for quick resale. Before purchasing any of these items, ask yourself if the deal seems suspicious, or if it seems too good to be true. You may occasionally miss out on a great deal, but you will also not run the risk of being charged with a crime. If you or someone you know is currently being investigated or charged in relation to theft, or possession of stolen property, call our office for a free consultation, and let us see what we can do for you.