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Is Receiving Stolen Property Illegal?

Everyone knows that stealing from others is against the law in North Carolina. Whether you shoplift trinkets, steal from a friend’s house, or break into a bank, there are severe penalties associated with larceny. However, did you know that you can also face charges if you accept stolen goods that someone gives you? Let’s look at whether receiving stolen goods is illegal and whether it is ever okay to accept them.

Possessing and Receiving Stolen Property

Often, the worth of stolen goods determines whether the thief faces felony charges. Theft of goods valuing more than one thousand dollars ($1,000) is a Class H felony. 

However, if you receive or possess stolen goods valued at more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), you can also face Class H felony charges. It doesn’t even matter if you were not involved in the actual theft. Possessing the goods while knowing (or reasonably suspecting) that they were stolen is enough for a conviction.

Even if you only have a reasonable suspicion that someone stole the goods and you accept them anyway, you can still face charges. A Class H felony can bring you from 4 to 25 months of prison time along with fines, probation, and a criminal record.

If the value of the stolen property is lower, you may only face misdemeanor charges. Accepting stolen property worth one thousand dollars ($1,000) or less is a Class 1 misdemeanor charge. Class 1 misdemeanors are high-level crimes that come with a jail sentence of up to 120 days, along with a court-imposed fine. 

However, some types of theft are always a felony, regardless of the item’s value. How you steal, what you’re stealing, where you steal, or who you steal from all matter.

Other Felony-Level Larceny

Some types of theft are always a felony-level crime. If you knowingly accept these stolen goods, you also commit a felony, even if you did not steal the property yourself. Even if you only “should have known” it was stolen, you can face felony charges. 

Receiving specific types of stolen goods (knowing or having reasonable grounds to believe them stolen) is always a felony. In these cases, it doesn’t matter how much they are worth. According to NC Law, it is always a felony to steal (or possess the goods) in these circumstances:

  • If someone steals directly from a person, and you accept the goods, you commit felony larceny.
  • Burglary or Breaking into a house: If someone wrongfully breaks and enters any building they are guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. But if they also commit larceny, and you accept the goods, you both can face felony charges. 
  • If someone goes into someone’s else’s house with intent to steal or commit a felony and then leaves at nighttime, and you accept the goods, you both can face Class D felony charges
  • If someone breaks and enters a religious worship building to commit any felony or larceny, and you accept stolen goods, you both face Class G felony charges 
  • If someone breaks and enters a pharmacy with the intent to commit a larceny of a controlled substance they are guilty of a Class E felony. However, if you receive or possess the stolen controlled substance (knowing or having reasonable grounds to believe the controlled substance was stolen) you are guilty of a Class F felony.
  • Automatic felony charges do not come with stealing fireworks, gasoline, butane gas, natural gas, or something with explosive properties that serves a legitimate purpose. However, if someone steals an explosive or incendiary device and you receive it, you can face felony charges. These substances include:
    • Incendiary grenade or bomb
    • Dynamite
    • Blasting powder, 
    • Nitroglycerin, 
    • TNT
    • High explosives 
    • Devices
    • Ingredient for explosive devices
    • A substance used for large-scale destruction of property by explosive or incendiary action or lethal injury
  • If someone steals any firearm and you receive and possess it, you commit felony level crime.  
  • Stealing records or papers in the custody of the North Carolina State Archives is always a felony. Receiving those stolen documents is also punishable as a felony.

Fighting Possession of Stolen Goods Charges

Law enforcement officers look for “probable cause” before arresting someone for larceny or possession of stolen goods.  They must have a reasonable suspicion to believe that you committed an offense before asking to search you. One of the ways you can fight a charge of theft or possession of stolen goods is by looking at whether law enforcement officers violated your rights. 

  • Did the officer have a just reason for suspecting you?
  • Were you advised of your rights before questioned if arrested?
  • Did investigating officers conduct an unlawful search?

In the initial stages of an investigation, your attorney can protect your rights and prevent any unlawful searches or interviews. However, your theft crimes defense attorney can also help you even if you’ve already admitted to the crime. You may need help understanding your options, like facing a lesser sentence in a plea bargain. 

In some cases, you received stolen items without knowing they were stolen. Or you were the victim of someone who planted stolen property in your bag. Perhaps you were coerced into accepting stolen property because you were afraid the thief would physically harm you. In these cases, your defense attorney may help you build a case around your innocence.

We Can Help

Whether you meant to receive stolen property or not, you deserve fairness and a legal defense dedicated to helping you rebuild your credibility and get back to your life. At Scharff Law, our team works with you to find the best outcome in your case. We understand that being charged with a crime is a stressful time. We are ready to fight for your rights until we reach a resolution for you. Contact us today for a free consultation and find out how we can help.