What You Should Know About Receiving Stolen Property in NJ
Whenever you buy something second hand or used, you are receiving an item of which you don’t know the entire history. While these transactions are usually harmless, there are times that you might wonder if you are receiving an item that has been stolen — and what kind of trouble you could be in if you were caught with the property.
The good news is that the law of New Jersey governing stolen property is not designed to catch innocent people. If you unknowingly purchase stolen property, you have little to worry about in terms of facing criminal charges.
Under New Jersey law, defendants may be charged with receipt of stolen goods only if they knowingly received (or brought into the state) someone else’s property, knowing or believing it to be stolen. The key to this is the word “knowingly.” The law is designed to punish those who assist thieves by acting as willful buyers in their chain of custody.
Courts that prosecute theft crimes bear the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt the intent of the recipient of the stolen goods. Mere proof the goods were stolen is not enough to establish guilt, and courts rely on surrounding circumstances, communications and conduct of the defendants in order to establish intent.
Defendants have two options for avoiding conviction for receipt of stolen property. First, a defendant may argue that he or she was unaware that the property was stolen. This shifts the burden to the prosecution to prove otherwise. The other strategy a defendant may utilize is asserting that he or she was aware that the property was stolen, but intended to return it to the original owner. In that case, the burden shifts once again to the prosecution to prove that the defendant did not intend to return it to the owner.
If you are charged with receipt of stolen goods or another theft crime in New Jersey, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to review your legal options.