Is Receiving Stolen Property Considered Theft?

Ohio Receiving Stolen Property

Receiving stolen property is a type of theft crime. The elements for the offense are enumerated in Chapter 2913 of the Ohio Revised Code, which concerns theft and fraud. If you are convicted of receiving stolen property, you face penalties similar to those imposed for theft. 

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.

What Does Receiving Stolen Property Mean?

Under Ohio Rev. Code § 2913.51, receiving stolen property means that you received, retained, or disposed of property unlawfully taken from someone else. Such conduct could involve your purchasing the item from, being gifted the item from, or discarding the item for an individual who acquired it by theft.

Examples of receiving stolen property include:

  • Buying a TV from a friend who stole it from work
  • Accepting a pair of sunglasses from a family member who told you they shoplifted them
  • Throwing away a set of speakers your significant other took, without consent, from a neighbor

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.

Receiving Stolen Property Unknowingly

The statute concerning the receipt of stolen property specifically states that such conduct must have been done knowingly or done when the person receiving the property had reason to believe it was stolen. That means if you accept a pair of sunglasses or buy a TV from a friend but assumed it was their own property they were getting rid of, you may not face criminal charges.

However, if the individual you received the property from explicitly told you that it was stolen or they were selling the item way below market price, you have reason to believe that it was unlawfully obtained. In this circumstance, you would be charged because you accepted the item knowing it was acquired without the owner's consent or by deception, threat, or intimidation.

Can I Fight the Charge by Saying I Didn't Steal the Property?

The fact that you were not actually involved in the offense that resulted in the acquisition of the property you received is not a defense to the charge. Division (B) of Ohio Rev. Code § 2913.51 specifically states that it is not a defense, provided that the person delivering the item to you let you know that it was obtained by theft.

Receiving Stolen Property Ohio Penalties

Like theft, whether receiving stolen property is a misdemeanor or felony depends on the item's value.

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. The level increases as follows:

  • Fifth-degree felony – 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.
  • Fourth-degree felony – the property was:
    • Valued at between $7,500 and $150,000;
      A motor vehicle;
      A dangerous drug; or
      A firearm or dangerous ordnance
  • Third-degree felony – 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.

For the most part, the level of charges is comparable to those levied for theft. However, a theft offense can be a second-degree felony when the value of the property was $750,000 or more but less than $1,500,000. It can be a first-degree felony if the property was valued at $1,500,000 or more.

Receiving Stolen Property Charges

The term of incarceration and amount of fine depends on whether receiving stolen property was a misdemeanor or a felony. For instance, a first-degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and/or up to $1,000. A third-degree felony is penalized by a maximum prison term of 36 months and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000.

What Is the Statute of Limitations for Receiving Stolen Property in Ohio?

The statute of limitations is the amount of time the State has to prosecute the case. For misdemeanors, it has 2 years; for felonies, 6 years.

If you have been accused of receiving stolen property in or around Cleveland, contact Patituce & Associates at (440) 709-8088.

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