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New York Possession of Stolen Property Frequently Asked Questions

What is possession of stolen property in New York?

In New York possession of stolen property is a crime to purchase or accept property that you know or should know was obtained through a crime of theft. Possession of stolen property is different from grand larceny, petit larceny, robbery, extortion, or embezzlement. Possession of stolen property is a crime designed to deter people from aiding or rewarding thieves by accepting, buying or concealing property that was stolen. Criminal possession of stolen property may be a misdemeanor or felony. In order to be convicted of criminal possession of stolen property in New York, the prosecution must show:

  • Property was stolen: In order to be convicted of a criminal possession of stolen property, the property must actually have been stolen, even if the person possessing it did not steal it.
  • Knowledge that property was stolen: The defendant must have known that the property was stolen, or should have known that the property was stolen.
  • Intent to benefit: The defendant had intent to benefit him or herself, or another person, or the defendant must have had the intent to impede the recovery of the property by its owner.
What if I did not know the property was stolen?

Under New York’s criminal code, knowledge that the property was stolen is a key element for the crime of criminal possession of stolen property. Thus, if the person who received the property knew or reasonably should have known that it was stolen at the time of acquisition, the person would be guilty. Similarly, if the person did not realize the property was stolen at the time of acquisition, but soon after learned it was stolen and kept it anyway, then the person would still be guilty of criminal possession of stolen property.

Can I be convicted of possession of stolen property in New York if I intend to return the property to its owner?

In New York a person who knows that the property he or she possesses is stolen is presumed to possess it with the requisite intent to benefit himself or another person, or the intent to impede the recovery by an owner. This means that the mere knowledge that the property is stolen is enough to be prosecuted for the crime of criminal possession of stolen property. The defendant would have to overcome the presumption of criminal intent in order to avoid conviction.

What are the possible consequences of a conviction for possession of stolen property?

Under the New York criminal code, depending on factors such as the value of the property, criminal possession of stolen property can be a felony or misdemeanor. In addition, there are several different felony criminal possession of stolen property offenses. Depending on the specific offense of which the defendant is convicted, the potential sentence may include the following:

  • Prison. If the conviction is a misdemeanor, the length of incarceration, if any, would be less than a year. If the conviction is a felony, the length of incarceration can be up to 25 years.
  • Restitution
  • Fines and fees
  • Probation
What are defenses against a charge of criminal possession of stolen property?

Defenses to a charge of possession of stolen property include:

  • Insufficient evidence. If there is not sufficient evidence that the defendant knew, or reasonably should have known that the property was stolen, then the prosecutor will have a difficult time proving the case against the defendant. Knowledge that the property was stolen is a necessary element of the crime. In addition, there must be evidence that the property was actually stolen. If the property was not stolen, then there was no crime of possession of stolen property.
  • Entrapment. In New York entrapment occurs when law enforcement or another official of the government encourages or compels someone to commit a criminal act that he or she would not have otherwise committed. While an entrapment defense can be successful, it is typically a difficult defense.
  • Insanity. An insanity defense allows a person to claim they were legally insane, either at the time of the offense or during trial. Insanity is a possible defense, but it is an incredibly complicated and difficult defense.
Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

Even though possessing stolen property is not the same as actually stealing the property, the consequences can be just as significant, including years of incarceration and significant fines. If you are facing or may be facing prosecution for criminal possession of stolen property, it is important that you are represented by someone with experience. The skilled attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have over two decades of experience successfully representing clients in New York charged with felonies and misdemeanors, including offenses related to theft. Contact us at 800.NY.NY.LAW (800.696.9529) to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We represent clients in the following locations: Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Nassau County, Queens, Staten Island, Suffolk County and Westchester County.

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