Being found in possession of stolen property is a serious offense in the state of Nevada, punishable at varying degrees by jail time and steep fines, as well as restitution to the rightful owner of the property. While the information collected here should provide a broader understanding of this crime as it is handled and punished in Nevada, anyone who has been charged with the crime of possession of stolen property should seek the immediate counsel of a criminal defense attorney with experience in defending crimes of this nature.
Understanding the Definition of “Possession of Stolen Property”
As defined by the state of Nevada (NRS 205.275), something that is legally considered to be “stolen property” refers to “property that has been taken from its owner by larceny, robbery, burglary, embezzlement, theft or any other offense that is a crime against property, whether or not the person who committed the taking is or has been prosecuted or convicted for the offense.” For the sake of clarity, this means that you can actually be charged with being in possession of property stolen from another person even if you did not commit the theft yourself and/or you were not involved in the planning of or theft of that property.
In fact, you can be charged with being in possession of stolen property if law enforcement believes that you have either received, purchased, possessed or withheld goods that were stolen from someone else. While this may be perceived by some as a little unfair, particularly in cases where property that had been stolen was sold to another party without their knowledge of that fact, it is important to remember that it will need to be proven that you were either aware or reasonably should have been aware that the goods you received or purchased had been stolen prior to your taking possession of or purchasing them for you to be convicted of this crime.
Prima Facie Evidence of Stolen Property
There are some common indicators that are considered by the court to be “prima facie evidence” of stolen property – this means that the circumstances or details related to the property in question as it was found are typically associated with property that has been stolen.
In Nevada, these are:
● Possession of three or more items of the same or a similar class, and/or
● Possession of a type of personal property on which a permanently affixed manufacturer’s serial number or manufacturer’s identification number has been removed, altered or defaced
While property that has these indicators can often be presumed to have been stolen by the court and may factor into the argument that the defendant should have been reasonably aware that they were receiving or purchasing goods that had been stolen, prima facie evidence is not incontrovertible.
Penalties for a Conviction of Possession of Stolen Property
The overall worth of the stolen property in question will determine the severity of the penalty received if you are convicted of this crime. In cases of possession of stolen property, the value of the property will be determined at the “highest value attributable to the property by any reasonable standard” (NRS 205.275). The penalties are as follows:
For Possession of Stolen Property Worth Less than $650
This is a misdemeanor in the state of Nevada. Penalties include:
● Up to six months in county jail
● Possible fines of up to $1,000
For Possession of Stolen Property Worth More Than $650, But Less Than $3,500
This is a category C felony in the state of Nevada. Penalties include:
● From one to five years in Nevada State Prison
● Possible fines of up to $10,000
For Possession of Stolen Property Worth More Than $3,500
This is a category B felony in the state of Nevada. Penalties include:
● From one to ten years in Nevada State Prison
● Possible fines of up to $10,000
Restoration of Stolen Property
Additionally, according to state law (NRS 205.290), “all property obtained by larceny robbery burglary or embezzlement and found in the possession of the thief or embezzler thereof, or in the possession of any receive or wrongful possessor of stolen property, shall be restored to the owner.”
It is also worth noting that someone who is in possession of stolen property can be charged, convicted and penalized for this crime whether the perpetrator of the actual theft of the property has been identified, arrested, and convicted or not, as the theft and the possession are related but considered separate crimes.
Defending Charges of Possession of Stolen Property
Some of the most common defenses that usually apply in cases regarding the possession of stolen property include the following:
● The stolen property in question was not in your possession. The prosecution must prove that you were actually in possession and control of the stolen property in question. This means being able to prove that you were either given or purchased the stolen goods and that those goods were under your possession and control.
● You received or purchased property that you legitimately did not know was stolen. It will be up to the prosecution to prove that you either knew or reasonably should have been aware that the property you received or bought had been stolen.
● The search conducted by law enforcement which resulted in the charge was performed illegally. An illegally performed search that turns up questionable items that result in a charge of possession of stolen property against you is unconstitutional and may lead to a dismissal of your case if the judge agrees that the search was a violation of your rights.
If you or someone you care about has been charged with possession of stolen property, it is in your best interest to discuss your case with an experienced attorney as soon as possible. We invite you to contact our office today for a free evaluation to help you determine the best course of legal action to build an effective defense against these charges. We want to hear your side of the story.