Possession of Stolen Property Defense
We’ve all heard the expression, “Possession is nine-tenths of the law.” It’s used in many contexts, sometimes correctly and sometimes incorrectly, but it means that ownership is easier to maintain if someone physically has something, and difficult to enforce if they do not. It’s not an actual rule of law, however, as the law requires the right to possess as well as actual possession. It’s common for people to misjudge the seriousness of the situation if they are in possession of something that isn’t rightfully theirs. In fact, it’s very possible to be convicted of a theft crime, even if the person has not actually stolen anything.
In Indiana, receiving stolen property, which also means retaining in the eyes of the law, is a punishable offense. The law states that “a person who knowingly or intentionally exerts unauthorized control over property of another person, with the intent to deprive the other person of any part of its value or use, commits theft.” Exerting control means to “obtain, take, carry, drive, lead away, conceal, abandon, sell, convey, encumber, or possess property, or to secure, transfer, or extend a right to property.” Claiming you didn’t know an item was stolen is not likely going to be enough to let you off the hook if you’re found with the stolen property. If it’s decided by a court of law that a reasonable person should have known the item was stolen, you could be facing prison time.
The difference between the word “theft” and what “theft” means in legal terms is what makes consulting an attorney so important. The charge of receiving stolen property is often a backup charge used when the police are unable to find direct evidence that a person stole the property in question. If the person is suspected of stealing, but they are charged with receiving/possessing, it doesn’t matter whether the person is guilty of actually stealing. The prosecution simply needs to prove that a person received the property and either knew or should have known it was stolen. Proving someone had stolen property and should have known it was stolen is much easier to prove than actual theft.
Being accused of theft or possession can be embarrassing, but don’t lose hope. You may have simply exhibited poor judgment. Everyone deserves a second chance. An experienced criminal defense attorney is often successful in helping you get a reduced charge or, at the very least, a fair deal. If you are not guilty of theft, which extends to truly not knowing the stolen property was in fact stolen, chances are good that you can avoid fines, jail time, and a permanent mark on your record.
The severity of the penalty generally depends on the value of the property.
Punishments for possession of stolen property can be either those for a misdemeanor or a felony as follows:
- Class A misdemeanor – the total property value is less than $750 (possible $5,000 fine and up to a year in prison)
- Level 6 felony – the total property value is more than $750 but less than $50,000, a firearm, or you have been convicted of a previous theft crime (carries a sentence of 6 months to 2.5 years in prison)
- Level 5 felony – the total property value is equal or greater than $50,000, the property is a valuable metal, relates to transportation or public safety, or is taken from a healthcare facility, telecommunications provider or public utility (carries a sentence of 1 to 6 years in prison).
Kentucky law defines theft very similarly to Indiana, but the penalties for possession differ:
- Class A misdemeanor – the total property value is less than $500, and the property is not a firearm or anhydrous ammonia (up to a $500 fine and up to 1 year in prison)
- Class D felony – total property value is between $500 and $10,000, or the property is a firearm of any value or anhydrous ammonia (carries a sentence of 1 to 5 years in prison)
- Class C felony – total property value is greater than $10,000 ($1,000 to $10,000 fine and 5 to 10 years in prison)
- Class B felony – the property is anhydrous ammonia with the intent to manufacture crystal meth (10 to 20 years in prison).
It’s important to remember that an accusation is not the same as a conviction, and there are many ways our IN possession of stolen property defense attorneys can help. We know how the Indiana criminal justice system operates and how to use the unique circumstances of each case to develop a thorough defense strategy that takes advantage of every opportunity for case dismissal, reduction of charges, reduction of sentences, and alternatives to imprisonment.
We proudly serve communities throughout Kentucky and Indiana including, but not limited to, Jefferson County, KY; Floyd County, IN; Clark County, IN; and Harrison County, IN. If you have been accused of or arrested for having stolen property, let us plan the aggressive defense that you will need. To get more information and explore your options, contact Church, Langdon, Lopp, Banet Law today by calling 812-725-8224 or filling out our online form. The initial consultation is free, so you have nothing to lose. Whatever the specifics of your case, we are relentless in fighting for you.