When Receiving Stolen Property is the Same as Theft

It may seem pretty innocent at the time. You buy something for cheap out of the back of a car or even just hold onto things you have received from a friend as a favor. However, while you may or may not know this property is technically stolen, buying it or hold onto it is the same as committing the theft yourself, at least that is how the law views it.


You may think yourself safe from prosecution if you technically didn’t commit a crime or have any hand in it, but possessing the goods is having a hand in it. Under Minnesota Statute 609.53, the law is allowed to sentence you for possessing stolen goods if convicted of possessing stolen goods the same as if you actually committed the crime yourself.

The severity of the punishment for possessing stolen goods, like with actual theft, goes up depending on the value of the goods. For example, receiving a $30 DVD player that is stolen is only a misdemeanor crime as long as it is under $500, but many would still not prefer the potential consequences of a $1,000 fine and/or 90 days in jail. Furthermore, theft punishments can get serious, very quickly as the dollar amount goes on the rise. Possessing stolen property that is over $1,000 in value will always be a felony charge, but the high fines and jail time still go up further with that dollar amount. Possessing goods of $35,000 or more, for example, can mean 25 years in prison and a $100,000 fine as a felony.


When you are facing charges for possessing stolen goods, the best defense is actually ignorance. In order to convict on possession of stolen good charges, the prosecution will need to prove that you had specific knowledge that the goods were actually stolen. You can’t punish someone for doing something that they didn’t know was illegal.

The good news is proving knowledge is exceptionally difficult for the prosecution. They can’t prove what is in your head without evidence. They need evidence and often that evidence is witness statements. For example, if you were talking to your friend in the hall of the apartment complex about the crime and how they pulled it off, that neighbor can be called in as witness to prove you had the required knowledge. However, if you talked about it in the privacy of your own home and no one heard, then the prosecution cannot prove you possessed the required knowledge.

While this defense is usually the best course of action, you still need a lawyer to make sure it is carried out right. The prosecution will try their best to prove that you had that knowledge, and this can manifest in small details that they can be used to build up evidence, such as knowing a person’s criminal history or that you should have known due to circumstances or details on the item itself. Your criminal defense attorney has the job of unraveling these details to help you escape the weighty fines and potential jail time.


If you are facing theft charges in Minnesota, whether it was for committing the actual crime or possessing the result of it, contact us today. Those who possess stolen goods in particular shouldn’t have to face the punishments for the crime when those cases are usually so easy to unravel through a defense strategy. Jennifer Speas and the Speas Law Firm has 25 years of criminal defense law experience, and we’ve seen it all. Let us put that knowledge to work for you to help with any of your criminal defense needs.