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What Are The Penalties For Receiving And Concealing Stolen Property In Michigan?

by | May 20, 2021 | Criminal Law |

 

There is no question that stealing personal property is a crime in Michigan.  However, there is also a duty upon individuals who purchase, trade for or otherwise receive property that they do not acquire it knowing that it was stolen.  Stolen property must be forfeited to the police so the rightful owner can be located.  A person who receives property that is knowingly stolen and then conceals it is committing a crime that can result in fines, probation and even incarceration.

An individual is guilty of receiving and concealing stolen property, contrary to MCL 750.535, if the prosecutor can prove all of the following beyond a reasonable doubt (See Model Criminal Jury Instruction 26.1):

  • First, that some property was stolen or explicitly represented to the individual as being stolen, embezzled or converted property.
  • Second, that the individual bought, received, possessed, concealed or aided in the concealment of that property.
  • Third, that the individual knew or had reason to know or reason to believe that the property was stolen when he or she bought, received, possessed, concealed or aided in the concealment of it.

The penalties for receiving and concealing stolen property are as follows:

  • A misdemeanor conviction punishable with a fine up to $500.00 (or 3x the value of the property purchased, received, possessed or concealed, whichever is greater) and/or up to 93 days in jail, or both, contrary to MCL 750.535(5), IF the value of the property purchased, received, possessed or concealed was less than $200.00.
  • A misdemeanor conviction punishable with a fine up to $2,000.00 (or 3x the value of the property purchased, received, possessed or concealed, whichever is greater) and/or up to 1 year in jail, or both, contrary to MCL 750.535(4), IF EITHER:
    • The value of the property purchased, received, possessed or concealed is $200.00 or more but less than $1,000.00; OR
    • The individual commits the crime of receiving and concealing stolen property under $200.00 AND the individual has a prior conviction for committing or attempting to commit receiving and concealing stolen property under $200.00.
  • A felony conviction punishable with a fine up to $10,000.00 (or 3x the value of the property purchased, received, possessed or concealed, whichever is greater) and/or up to 5 years in prison, or both, contrary to MCL 750.535(3), IF EITHER:
    • The value of the property purchased, received, possessed or concealed is $1,000.00 or more but less than $20,000.00; OR
    • The individual commits the crime of receiving and concealing stolen property between $200.00 and less than $1,000.00 AND has one or more prior convictions for committing or attempting to commit receiving and concealing stolen property between $200.00 and less than $1,000.00.
  • A felony conviction punishable with a fine up to $15,000.00 (or 3x the value of the property purchased, received, possessed or concealed, whichever is greater) and/or up to 10 years in prison, or both, contrary to MCL 750.535(2), IF EITHER:
    • The value of the property purchased, received, possessed or concealed is $20,000.00 or more; OR
    • The individual commits the crime of receiving and concealing stolen property between $1,000.00 and less than $20,000.00 AND has two or more prior convictions for committing or attempting to commit receiving and concealing stolen property between $200.00 and less than $20,000.00.
  • If the stolen property is a motor vehicle, a felony conviction punishable with a fine up to $10,000.00 (or 3x the value of the property purchased, received, possessed or concealed, whichever is greater) and/or up to 5 years in prison, or both, contrary to MCL 750.535(7):
    • A person who commits the crime of receiving and concealing a stolen motor vehicle and has one or more convictions for receiving and concealing stolen property less than $1,000.00 is guilty of a felony punishable with a fine up to $15,000.00 (or 3x the value of the property purchased, received, possessed or concealed, whichever is greater) and/or up to 10 years in prison, or both, contrary to MCL 750.535(8).
    • A person charged with receiving or concealing a motor vehicle cannot be charged and convicted of another receiving and concealing stolen property crime, but can be charged with any other crime such as unlawful driving away of an automobile.

The following additional considerations apply to proceedings involving receiving and concealing stolen property:

  • In addition to fines and costs, the judge will order the convicted defendant to pay restitution to the victim to replace the value of the stolen property that was received and concealed.
  • A criminal proceeding for receiving and concealing stolen property does not prohibit the victim from filing a lawsuit in civil court to obtain a judgment for damages related to the property that was received and concealed.
  • “The values of property purchased, received, possessed, or concealed in separate incidents pursuant to a scheme or course of conduct within any 12-month period may be aggregated to determine the total value of property purchased, received, possessed, or concealed.”  MCL 750.535(6).
  • “It is not a defense to a charge under this section that the property was not stolen, embezzled, or converted property at the time of the violation if the property was explicitly represented to the accused person as being stolen, embezzled, or converted property.”  MCL 750.535(12).

The most difficult task for the prosecutor to determine is whether or not the defendant knew or had reason to know that the property was stolen:

  • People v Lauzon, 84 Mich App 201; 269 NW2d 524 (1978) – The defendant was convicted of receiving stolen property, specifically stereo parts. He contends his conviction was invalid because the jury was instructed that they could infer knowledge by the defendant that the property was stolen.  The Michigan Court of Appeals acknowledged that guilty knowledge of the fact that goods were previously stolen is an essential element of the crime, that knowledge can be actual or constructive, and that mere possession alone is not sufficient in and of itself to show guilty knowledge.  However, it is impossible to directly prove what the defendant knew, so the jury could be instructed that they could infer what he or she knew by the facts and ordinary circumstances of the defendant’s possession.  Id at 207-208.  This inference is permissible as long as the jury is instructed to weigh all the evidence, and if, after weighing all the evidence the jury had a reasonable doubt regarding knowledge, they should be instructed to find the defendant not guilty.
  • People v Salata, 79 Mich App 415; 262 NW2d 844 (1977) – The defendant was convicted of receiving and concealing a stolen vehicle that he purchased six months after it was stolen by the purported owner. The Michigan Court of Appeals reversed his conviction, finding that there were no suggestive irregularities to the condition of the car at the time of purchase where an inference of guilty knowledge can arise.  Although the VIN number had been altered, no average person could have detected that and he bought it under circumstances (e.g. saw a “for sale” sign and paid fair market value plus taxes) where a reasonable jury could not know that the defendant was aware of the theft.  Since there was insufficient evidence to justify a verdict of guilt, then the conviction was reversed.
  • People v Watts, 133 Mich App 80; 348 NW2d 39 (1984) – The defendant was convicted of receiving and concealing stolen property after a jury trial. He argued that the defense of voluntary intoxication should have been available to him, since receiving and concealing is a specific intent crime requiring specific knowledge that the property was stolen.  The Michigan Court of Appeals disagreed and found that receiving and concealing is a general intent crime and no such defense is available.  “Because the element of knowledge that the property was previously stolen in the crime of receiving and concealing stolen property was intended to prevent the innocent receipt or possession of stolen property from constituting the commission of the crime, receiving and concealing stolen property is not a specific intent crime.”
  • People v Pratt, 254 Mich App 425; 656 NW2d 866 (2002) – The defendant was convicted of taking his former girlfriend’s car without permission (he maintained he borrowed it). The defendant asserted that he could not be found guilty of receiving and concealing stolen property because he did not “steal” the property as an act of larceny, meaning he did not intend to permanently deprive the owner of possession of the property.  The Michigan Court of Appeals disagreed and found that the receiving and concealing stolen property “concerns any property taken without permission, not only property taken by larceny.”

A person charged with receiving and concealing stolen property has many defenses available to them.  A skilled criminal defense lawyer in that person’s corner can ensure every one of these defenses is asserted and the prosecutor is held to the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  A person cannot be convicted of receiving or concealing if the prosecutor cannot prove that the exact property in the defendant’s possession was the real stolen goods instead of other goods simply resembling them.  For example, the prosecutor cannot say that an individual is in possession of a stolen bicycle that is the identical manufactured model of a bicycle stolen one day ago absent evidence that it is the very same bicycle that was stolen.  Likewise, a person who is a bona fide purchaser of an item cannot be guilty of a crime if there is nothing from the circumstances of purchase that would suggest he or she had reason to know that the merchandise was stolen.  A knowledgeable legal advocate can help get the best outcome in your case.

If you or a loved one is charged with any crime and needs legal representation, then do not hesitate to contact the experienced attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC for assistance today.

 

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