Georgia Law on Theft by Receiving Stolen Property – What You Should Know
An accusation of theft by receiving stolen property is serious, but it can also be confusing. How can you be found guilty of theft if you didn’t rob someone? The prospect is terrifying, but it’s entirely possible in the state of Georgia.
In Georgia, the law on theft by receiving stolen property is covered by O.C.G.A. § 16-8-2. This law criminalizes the act of knowingly and intentionally possessing, selling, or otherwise trafficking in stolen property. Without a deeper understanding of the law and a strong legal defense, a jury could find you guilty of this crime even when you know you’re innocent.
If police charge you with theft by receiving stolen property, criminal defense attorney Andrew L. Schwartz P.C. is here to help. In this article, we will help you understand the specifics of the law and possible defenses against your charges. Read on to learn how Georgia treats theft by receiving stolen property and what you can do to fight it.
Theft in Georgia
To understand theft by receiving stolen property, you must realize that Georgia treats all theft charges the same. How one steals an item is irrelevant to the theft charge itself. Even those who play an accessory role to theft can face the same charges as the actual thief.
The same is true if you receive stolen property. Depending on the value of the stolen goods, you may face misdemeanor or felony charges. Theft involving federal property can also be charged as a felony regardless of value.
The Role of “Knowledge”
Simply receiving stolen property isn’t enough to be convicted. There are three elements a prosecutor must show to prove guilt.
- You obtained goods
- The goods were stolen
- You knew or suspected that the goods were stolen
The knowledge that the goods were stolen can be difficult to prove, but not impossible. The person who gives them to you doesn’t have to state they stole them. Instead, a prosecutor can illustrate that you had reasons to suspect someone stole them in some cases.
For example, let’s say that a friend gives you a new computer. You know that this friend has a history of stealing. If you accept the computer, you’re also accepting the possibility that it is stolen and they (as well as you) could be convicted if it is.
Or let’s say that someone offers you new power tools at a very low price. You purchase them even though you’ve heard news reports that someone robbed a local hardware store recently. A prosecutor would argue that you should have suspected they were illegally obtained.
What you do with the property could also serve as circumstantial evidence. For example, if you tried to hide, sell, or destroy the item, a prosecutor could suggest you have knowledge of guilt. Short of turning the goods into the police, disposing of stolen goods isn’t a legal defense.
Penalties for Receiving Stolen Goods
Receiving stolen property is only a misdemeanor if its value is less than $1,500. A conviction carries up to twelve months in jail and a fine between $500 and $1,000. A judge can, at their discretion, alter these penalties.
A felony conviction sees increased penalties depending on the value of the stolen property:
- Property between $1,500 and $5,000 is punishable with up to five years in prison.
- Property between $5,000 and $25,000 is punishable with up to ten years in prison.
- Property valued above $25,000 is punishable with up to twenty years in prison.
Legal Defenses Against Theft By Receiving Stolen Property
Case law has provided several successful strategies for defending yourself against these theft charges. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you identify the best strategy for your unique situations. The most common defenses are:
You did not know (or have reason to suspect) someone stole the property you received.
If successful, this defense eliminates one of the three necessary elements needed for conviction. However, proving you lacked knowledge that the property was stolen can be made difficult depending on your behavior.
Besides trying to hide property, there are other ways the prosecution could show you at least suspected the property was illegally obtained. If you acted suspiciously towards the police, for example, it could cast you in a bad light. For this reason, it’s essential to contact your lawyer as soon as you know you’re a suspect to get your defense in order and plan for your testimony.
You never possessed the property.
If you were going to obtain property but backed out when you learned or suspected someone stole it, this is a viable defense. Since you never actually obtained it, you can’t be said to have received it.
The estimated value of the property is incorrect.
Though this defense won’t prove innocence, it can reduce penalties. You can challenge the alleged value of the stolen property by having an outside expert appraise it. If they find the value is less than what the court stated, it could result in downgrading the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Put Your Trust in Schwartz Law
A theft conviction carries serious consequences that can alter your life forever. However, even simple proven defenses aren’t always enough to prove your innocence or keep you out of prison. You need a criminal attorney who can fully commit to your defense.
You need the expertise of a former prosecutor. You need Cobb County criminal defense attorney Andrew L. Schwartz P.C. on your side.
If you’re seeking criminal defense in the Cobb County or Metro Atlanta area, Andrew Schwartz can help. With a passion for aggressive defenses, the staff at Schwartz Law will always put your best interest first, no matter what charges you face. Contact us today for your free consultation.