POSSESSION OF STOLEN PROPERTY
Everyone knows that stealing is a crime but what happens if you handle stolen property? Are you liable for a criminal charge?
The answer is “maybe”.
Possession of stolen property is a crime in Canada but it is far from an “open and shut” case in many circumstances.
The burden of proof on the prosecution is considerable. The experience and skills of your defence lawyer will play a major part in determining whether you are convicted.
Cory Wilson’s experience and skills as a defence lawyer can help you if you are charged with possession of stolen property in the Calgary area.
What is Possession of Stolen Property?
It is a criminal offense to possess property that was stolen or obtained through criminal means in Canada – even if you did not steal it.
However, for the prosecution to achieve a conviction, each of the following elements must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt:
- You were in possession of the property,
- The property was obtained through crime,
- You were aware that you were in possession of the property, and
- You were aware that the property was obtained through crime.
If someone stole items of jewelry and you bought them with the full knowledge that they were stolen, you can be found guilty of the offence of possession of stolen property even if it is not in your immediate possession (for instance, you gave the items to someone for safekeeping or stored them somewhere).
The law states that if you remain in control of an item that was stolen, regardless of where it is physically located, you can be charged with possession of stolen property.
If you possess stolen property from shoplifting or a robbery, you can face a charge of possession of stolen property even if the charge of theft cannot be proven.
Even if someone else stole property and deposited it with you for safekeeping, you can be charged and convicted if all of the four elements detailed above can be proven by the prosecution.
Penalties for Possession of Stolen Property
The penalties for possession of stolen property in Canada depend greatly on the value of the property involved.
According to the Canadian Criminal Code, penalties are more severe for property valued at over $5,000 than property valued under this amount.
Property under $5,000
For property under $5,000, a possession charge is treated as a “hybrid” offence. This means that the prosecution can proceed as either a summary or indictable offence, depending on the circumstances.
If treated as a summary conviction, you could face up to six months in jail. If it proceeds as an indictment, the crime is punishable by up to two years in prison.
Property over $5,000
A conviction for possession of stolen property over $5,000 will be treated as an indictable offence, meaning a potential prison term of up to 10 years.
If there are aggravating factors present, such as the use of violence or weapons, or connection to organized crime, you may be more likely to face a jail sentence. You may also be prohibited from possessing weapons or firearms. Violating the terms of this prohibition order could lead to another criminal charge.
Factors involved in sentencing
Bear in mind that while the value of the property in question is the most important factor when deciding the penalties you will face, it is not the only factor.
The court will also consider factors like your prior criminal history, your relationship with the alleged victim, the origins of the property, whether a criminal organization was involved, and whether any personal factors contributed to the actions you allegedly took.
With the assistance of an experienced defence lawyer like Cory Wilson, even if you are found guilty of possession of stolen property, you may be able to escape jail time with a discharge (i.e., a finding of guilt but no criminal conviction), a fine, and/or probation.
Like with any criminal conviction, the longer-term consequences may be even more devastating than the short-term penalties.
As well as the reputational damage you may suffer as a perpetrator of a “crime of dishonesty”, you may face challenges when looking for work or housing as a result of criminal record background checks.
Consider your options before pleading guilty to this type of offence. Cory Wilson and his team may be able to help you avoid a criminal record and can mitigate the impact on your future.
Defences for Possession of Stolen Property
Simply claiming that you were not aware that an item was stolen will not save you from a conviction for possession of stolen property.
Ignorance of the law or “blindness” to the facts are not considered reasonable defences in court.
If you ought to have known that you were in possession of the property and that it was stolen, this may be enough to convict you.
However, regardless of the circumstances, legitimate defenses can be applied in most cases.
- Factual Innocence: the facts and the evidence do not support you possessing the property illegally. You may have been holding something for somebody else (no intent), own the property, or it might be a case of mistaken identity (e.g., the surveillance footage is poor quality).
- Violation of constitutional rights: the police failed to abide by the rights afforded to you under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
- Colour of right: you honestly and reasonably believed that you had a lawful right to possess the property in question.
- Innocent possession: you possessed the property in order to return it to the rightful owner or provide it to the police.
Remember, to secure a conviction, the Crown must prove not only that you possessed the property but that you were aware that it was in your possession and that it was stolen.
Call Us To Arrange A Confidential Consultation
To speak with Cory Wilson or arrange a free, no-obligation consultation with Wilson Criminal Defence, call 403-978-6052 or email us here.
Possession of Stolen Property FAQ
Cory Wilson is a criminal defence lawyer based in Calgary. If you have been charged with a criminal offence or are a suspect in a criminal investigation, call today for a free, no-obligation consultation.