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What is Receipt of Stolen Property—And Is It Illegal?

Theft is a very serious crime in Texas, but few people really understand all the different types of theft. For many, the most common type of theft is stealing something from a store or snatching a lady’s purse.

But under Texas law, simply receiving stolen goods could possibly qualify as theft. You don’t have to “steal” anything at all. Defendants face very serious penalties, so they should contact a Houston criminal defense attorney to begin mounting a defense on their behalf.

Yes, Receiving Stolen Property is Illegal

Penal Code section 31.03 is the state’s major theft statute. Under the law, it is illegal to unlawfully appropriate someone’s property if done with the intent of depriving the owner of it. The statute provides different definitions of “appropriation,” one of which consists of taking control of property you know is stolen.

For example, it is theft if:

  • Someone steals a TV, and you hide it in your garage, knowing it is stolen.
  • You buy a car that you know has been stolen.
  • You accept a gift of jewelry knowing it was stolen and do not intend to turn it over to the police or return to the owner.

Although you are not the one who stole the property, concealing or taking control of it is a crime when you have knowledge the goods were stolen, provided you intend to deprive the owner of the goods.

As with stealing, punishment will depend on the value of the goods stolen. If the property is worth less than $100, you will face Class C misdemeanor theft charges. However, it is a state jail felony if the goods are worth at least $2,500 (but less than $30,000), which means 180 days to 2 years in state prison. That’s a severe penalty for rather inexpensive goods.

When the property is worth $300,000 or more, you could face a first-degree felony charge.

How Do You Defend Against These Charges?

Many people are naturally alarmed to hear that simply taking possession of stolen goods could land them in jail. Remember, however, that the state must show you knew the goods were stolen to get a conviction. If you had no idea, then you can’t be convicted. This knowledge requirement protects people who shop at second-hand stores or buy items on eBay and similar websites. However, tread lightly if you have reason to suspect the goods were stolen. High-end goods (like Louis Vuitton handbags) sold for rock bottom prices on eBay look suspicious.

The state also needs to show you intended to deprive the owner of the property. For example, someone might have stolen your roommate’s laptop, but you find it at a coffee shop. If you intend to return it to your roommate at the first opportunity, it’s not theft to briefly take possession of it.

Decades of Experience Defending Against Theft Charges

Attorney Tad Nelson has defended people accused of some of the worst Houston crimes. To find out more about how to fight theft charges, give us a call today.