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Practice Areas

Criminal Possession of Stolen Property

Prosecutors in New York often push hard to convict if a defendant has any contact with or possesses stolen property, whether the property is worth $1000 to $1 million.

Even if a defendant was holding stolen property for someone else, without knowing it was stolen, there may be a presumption that a defendant knew the property was stolen, and could be charged and convicted of a felony and sentenced for up to 25 years in prison.

The simple fact is that from the beginning of a case involving charges of Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in New York, every single step that a defendant takes is important. Although the seriousness of this charge can range from a misdemeanor all of the way to a class ‘B’ felony, there are many nuances to such a charge where a savvy prosecutor can suddenly have a solid case put into his or her lap like a birthday present, for no good reason.

The role of an effective attorney in these matters is to understand every possible dimension of the charge, including the true nature of the alleged property stolen, when it was stolen, if it was actually stolen, who stole it, and why the state would look to the defendant.

The crime of Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in New York is defined as a person who possesses property that was stolen, who knows that the property was stolen, and who intends to either personally benefit or provide the benefit to another, or who impedes recovery of the stolen object.

Legislation:

The underlying criminal charge of Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in New York is broken down into five “degrees”. A defendant would be found guilty of the charge if: Fifth Degree Criminal Possession of Stolen Property (Sect. 165.40): … a person knowingly has or possesses property that is or was stolen, with the intent of creating a benefit to himself or another, or impedes return or recovery of the stolen property. Conviction of this class “A” misdemeanor can have a consequence of up to a year in jail. Fourth Degree Criminal Possession of Stolen Property (Sect. 165.45): …when the value of the objects stolen exceed $1,000.00, punishment for this class “E” felony can be imprisonment for up to 4 years. Third Degree Criminal Possession of Stolen Property (Sect. 165.50): …when the value of the objects stolen exceeds $3,000.00, punishment for this class “D” felony can be imprisonment for up to 7 years. Second Degree Criminal Possession of Stolen Property (Sect. 165.52): …..where the value of the stolen property is in excess of $50,000.00, the punishment for this class “C” felony can be imprisonment for up to 15 years. First Degree Criminal Possession of Stolen Property (Sect. 165.54): … where the value of the stolen goods exceeds $1 million, the punishment for this class “B” felony can be imprisonment for up to 25 years in state prison. In additional to jail time or imprisonment, all of the different degree charges of Criminal Possession of Stolen Goods can include fines, restitution, and probation, depending upon the result of trial, or the plea agreement worked out with the state.

When is the best time to act?:

One of the real potential harms for any defendant is waiting too long to get good advice about a charge of Criminal Possession of Stolen Property. There may be other defendants involved in a larger criminal enterprise who seek out good advice early, and who may benefit from protections that others could have obtained. A substantially beneficial plea agreement or even dismissal of charges can occur if the stolen items are returned in part or in full. Stolen property is much more likely to remain intact and returnable the quicker this information is brought to an attorney’s attention, which then can be used most effectively on behalf of a defendant. So moving forward and timely seeing a knowledgeable attorney about a charge of Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in New York can not only provide good information and some peace of mind, but could have a real impact on the final outcome of a defendant’s criminal case.

Related Crimes/Schemes:

There are other State of New York crimes that have certain charging, act and offense similarities to Criminal Possession of Stolen Property, including theft, fraud, larceny, grand larceny and petite larceny. As an example, Criminal Possession of Stolen Property is treated similarly to larceny in many respects by New York law, although larceny may lack the physical possession aspect.

Penalties & Punishment:

Potential criminal consequences to a plea for or conviction of Criminal Possession of Stolen Property can range from up to a year in jail to a state prison sentence of 25 years, with possible added fines, restitution, and other costs. Even if a defendant was holding stolen property for someone else, without knowing it was stolen, there may be a presumption that a defendant knew the property was stolen, and could be charged and convicted of a felony and sentenced for up to 25 years in prison. The simple fact is that from the beginning of a case involving charges of Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in New York, every single step that a defendant takes is important. Although the seriousness of this charge can range from a misdemeanor all of the way to a class ‘B’ felony, there are many nuances to such a charge where a savvy prosecutor can suddenly have a solid case put into his or her lap like a birthday present, for no good reason. The role of an effective attorney in these matters is to understand every possible dimension of the charge, including the true nature of the alleged property stolen, when it was stolen, if it was actually stolen, who stole it, and why the state would look to the defendant, and reach the best possible pre or trial outcome.

Successful Defenses:

A frequently used successful defense to the charge of Criminal Possession of Stolen Property is that the holder was not aware that the property was stolen when found in his possession. From routine, everyday experience, this phenomenon is easy to understand. The typical person doesn’t balk at the idea of holding a valuable necklace for a friend, or keeping a few boxes in storage for a relative. Most defendants would not take the time to ask “what’s in the box” or “why do you want me to hold this necklace?” We tend to trust people, particularly friends or relatives, implicitly. This can be a positive for the goal of greater trust and believability on a larger human scale, but it can be a slippery slope to describe this to a skeptical jury that reads “criminal act” into otherwise innocent behavior. Consequently, the art of successfully maintaining this “innocent holder” defense requires care and skill to both initiate and successfully complete, involving an attorney with years of experience in the system. Another frequently seen defense is when a defendant becomes aware that goods were stolen only after the goods came into their possession. In that case, a defendant can get caught up in a dangerous game of Catch-22 by trying to return stolen goods later known to be stolen, but which could cause him or her even more risk just by turning in the items at a later point in time. Also, there are many instances where assistance from the defendant that helps to obtain return of the stolen property or catch the real or other perpetrators can provide a real benefit, allowing a defendant to either have criminal consequences reduced or avoided entirely.

Differences between State & Federal Law:

The federal law relating to Receipt of Stolen Property generally falls under U.S.C. Section 2315. The primary difference between state law and federal law in this area is that there must generally be movement across state lines/interstate commerce for federal law to apply.

High Profile Crimes:

Periodic high profile cases that occasionally pop into the public eye involve possession of stolen property, at the international level, where stolen works of fine art are discovered years even decades later in a garage, a storage locker, or tucked away in an attic. Who was holding the artworks and when, how long they have been rolled up in a storage container for protection, who has maintained them and who is responsible are questions that can take police years to determine.