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Is Receiving Stolen Property Considered Theft?

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Is Receiving Stolen Property Considered Theft?

Ohio Receiving Stolen Property Law Basics

Even if you did not commit the theft or physically steal property from someone else, if you are charged with receiving stolen property, you may face the same penalties as the person who actually stole the property before giving it to you.

Receiving stolen property is a theft crime under Ohio laws. The elements of the offense are explained 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. 

However, if you accidentally receive stolen goods – whether you purchased the item or it was a gift – you likely won’t face criminal charges. However, if you knew the item was stolen, you could be charged with committing a misdemeanor or felony theft. The severity of the charge usually depends on the value of the stolen property, the type of property stolen, and the identity of the rightful owner.

What Does Receiving Stolen Property Mean?

Is Receiving Stolen Property Considered Theft?

Under Ohio Rev. Code § 2913.51, receiving stolen property means that you received, retained, or disposed of property unlawfully taken from someone else. You could be accused of receiving stolen property if:

  • You purchased the item from the person who stole it
  • You received the item as a gift from the person who stole it or
  • You held onto or threw away the item on behalf of the 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 from a neighbor without their consent.

The State Must Prove You Knowingly Accepted Something That Was Stolen to Charge You With Receiving Stolen Property

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.

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 far less than 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 obtained through legal means.

If, after having doubts about the way your friend got the laptop, you still purchase it, you may be charged with the offense of receiving stolen property.

Conversely, You Cannot Be Charged With 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 thinking 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 could 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 a Receiving Stolen Property Charge by Claiming I Didn’t Steal It?

The fact that you were not actually involved in the theft that resulted in the acquisition of the property in question is not a viable defense to the charge of receiving stolen property. 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.

What are the Penalties for Receiving Stolen Property in Ohio?

Similar to the charge of theft, receiving stolen property can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the item’s value and who it was stolen from.

Minimally, 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 charging 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 is $750,000 or more but less than $1,500,000. It can be a first-degree felony if the property is valued at $1,500,000 or more. Also, if the property was stolen from an elderly or disabled person, the charge can be enhanced.

Receiving Stolen Property Charges

The term of incarceration and the fine amount will depend on whether the receiving stolen property offense was charged as 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?

Joesph C patituce
Joseph C. Patituce, Cleveland Criminal Defense Attorney

The statute of limitations is the amount of time the State has to prosecute a case. For misdemeanors, the State has 2 years; for felonies, the timeframe is 6 years. Reach out to a criminal defense lawyer to explain your unique circumstances and learn if the statute of limitations has run.

Trust Patituce & Associates to Help You Defend a Receiving Stolen Property Charge

Although you may not have stolen property from someone else, if you accepted the property, you may be charged with receiving stolen property under Ohio law. The criminal justice system is complicated and challenging. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help you build a defense or negotiate a fair outcome according to your situation.

When you choose Patituce & Associates, you’ll work with a legal team committed to protecting your rights during every step of the criminal justice process. We approach each case with diligence, crafting strategic defenses tailored to the unique circumstances raised in receiving stolen property charges. With offices in Akron, Beachwood, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Independence, Strongsville, and Toledo, we can meet with clients throughout Ohio.

The potential repercussions could be serious. You don’t need to face these charges alone. If you have been accused of receiving stolen property in or around Cleveland, contact us online or call Patituce & Associates at (440) 471-7784.