What Happens If I Accidentally Receive Stolen Property?

Sometimes a theft offense does not end with the person taking the goods from another. It may continue to the offender actually selling the stolen items to make a profit or giving away the objects to friends and family. This means that you, who were not involved in the original theft crime, may end up receiving stolen property.

Now, if you accidentally receive stolen goods – whether you purchased it or were gifted it – you likely won't face criminal charges. However, if you knew the item was stolen, you could be accused of committing a misdemeanor or felony.

Knowingly Accepting Something that Was Stolen

Under O.R.C. 2913.51, it's illegal for a person to receive, retain, or dispose of something they knew was stolen. If you're charged with this crime, you might argue that you didn't know the property was stolen because the person who gave it to you never explicitly said they obtained it by committing a theft offense.

In some cases, that might be a valid defense. However, the law also provides that a person can be charged with receiving stolen property if they had "reasonable cause to believe that the property" was stolen.

"Reasonable cause to believe" means that under the same or similar circumstances, a reasonable person would have known that the item was illegally obtained. For instance, say your friend has a laptop they're selling. You know they didn't have it before, and when you ask where they got it, they say they found it. Also, they are asking way below what the device is worth, and they seem to be acting suspiciously throughout the transaction. Those behaviors and factors might suggest to you that the laptop wasn't legally obtained.

If, even after having doubts about the way your friend got the laptop, you still purchase it, you may be charged with an offense.

What Are the Possible Consequences for Receiving a Stolen Item?

The penalties you could face for receiving a stolen item depend on a couple of things: what it is and what it’s worth.

Generally, the crime is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

If the item was valued at between $1,000 and $7,500, the offense is a fifth-degree felony. A conviction carries with it a prison term not to exceed 12 months and/or a maximum fine of $2,500.

The crime is elevated to a fourth-degree felony when the item is:

  • Valued at between $7,500 and $150,000;
  • A motor vehicle;
  • A dangerous drug; or
  • A firearm or dangerous ordnance

A conviction can result in a prison sentence of up to 18 months and/or a fine of up to $5,000.

Receiving stolen property valued at $150,000 or more is a third-degree felony. It's punishable by imprisonment for no more than 3 years and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

Have you been charged with a theft crime in Cleveland? At Patituce & Associates, our lawyers fight to win and will work toward a favorable outcome on your behalf. Get in touch with us by calling (440) 709-8088 or submitting an online contact form today.