California Receiving Stolen Property Law

california receiving stolen property

According to California law (Penal Code §496) every person who buys or receives any property that has been stolen or that has been obtained in any manner constituting theft or extortion, knowing the property to be so stolen or obtained, or who conceals, sells, withholds, or aids in concealing, selling, or withholding any property from the owner, knowing the property to be so stolen or obtained, is guilty of receiving stolen property.

Receiving or purchasing property that he/she knows (or reasonably should know) is stolen is considered a crime and will be prosecuted in court.

Thus, the crucial elements of receiving stolen property are the following:

  • The property taken has been stolen or obtained in a manner of extortion
  • The defendant received, bought, sold, withheld, concealed, or helped in selling or in concealing of property
  • The defendant had the intent to commit unlawful act.

The term “receiving” is applicable while a person possess and controls the stolen good. It has to be noted that more than one person can possess the good at the same time, so the possession of the stolen good does not necessarily have to be committed exclusively. Moreover, a person can be convicted for the offense if he possesses the good without holding or touching it. It is enough if the person has control over it, including the control through another person.

Receiving stolen property may be either a felony or a misdemeanor, that is to say it is a “wobbler”. The incrimination depends on the criminal history of the person as well as objective circumstances of the offense. California Penal Code 496 PC states that any person who has been injured by a violation of the aforementioned section may bring an action for three times the amount of actual damages, in addition, sustained by the plaintiff, costs of suit, and reasonable attorney’s fees.


Misdemeanor (the value of the stolen property does not exceed $950 or less) Felony
Receiving stolen property
  • Sentencing of up to one year in a county jail and a maximum $1,000 fine
  • Sentence of 16 months, or two or three years in the California State Prison, and a $10,000 maximum fine


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