Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in New York
Criminal possession of stolen objects means knowingly possessing the stolen property of another person. You can be charged with criminal possession if you possess a stolen object with the intent to benefit yourself or someone else, and/or to prevent the return of the stolen possession to the owner.
The following are examples of situations where charges of criminal possession of a stolen object may be filed:
- If you knowingly steal and possess property;
- If you knowingly transport stolen property;
- If you knowingly hold or hide stolen property;
- If you knowingly buy or retain the stolen property.
Statutes Related to Possession of a Stolen Object
Criminal possession of a stolen object is a charge that is defined to various degrees, all covered under Article 165 of the New York State Penal Law Code. They are defined as follows:
Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fifth Degree:
This refers to knowingly possessing any stolen object, with the intent to benefit yourself or anyone else, and/or with the intent to prevent the object from being returned to its owner.
Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fourth Degree:
This refers to criminal possession under certain circumstances. Specifically, when the stolen object is a credit card or public benefit card;
- when it is worth over $1,000.00;
- when it consists of one or more firearms;
- when it is a vehicle that is worth over $100.00;
- when it is a religious object worth over $100.00;
- when it is a specific type of ammonia intended to manufacture methamphetamine; or when the defendant is a loan broker or professionally buys or sells a property.
Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Third Degree:
This refers to criminal possession if the object is worth over $3,000.00
Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Second Degree:
This refers to criminal possession if the object is worth over $50,000.00
Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the First Degree:
This refers to criminal possession if the object is worth over one million dollars.
Charges in the fourth, third, second, and first-degree increased in seriousness and penalty. However, criminal possession of the stolen property in the fifth degree does not differentiate when it comes to value.
This means that you can be charged with that crime whether you were in possession of a stolen diamond or a stolen pack of playing cards.
The Legal Definition of Criminal Possession of Stolen Property
Statute 165.40 sets out the legal definition of criminal possession of the stolen property.
Criminal possession of the stolen property in the fifth degree is a class A misdemeanor. However, criminal possession in the fourth through first degrees are all felonies. In the fourth degree, it is a class E felony. In the third degree, it is a class D felony. In the second degree, it is a class C felony, and in the first degree, it is a class B felony.
The “elements” of criminal possession of the stolen property are the things that the prosecutor must prove in order for you to be found guilty of this offense. In order to obtain a guilty verdict, the prosecutor must prove that all of the following elements are true, beyond a shadow of a doubt:
- The object was stolen property.
- You were in possession of the object.
- You were in possession of the object with the knowledge that it was stolen property.
- You were in possession of the object with the intent to benefit yourself or anyone but the owner, and/or with the intent to prevent the return of the object to the owner.
Let’s delve a bit more deeply into these elements to understand exactly what they mean.
Element #1: The Object Was Stolen Property
The definition of Element #1 is that the item was stolen property. This means that the item in question was someone else’s property, and was stolen from them.
- Example: Barry was in possession of a lawn mower. Leonard claimed the lawnmower was his property and had been stolen from him. He pressed charges against Barry for possession of the stolen property.
However, Barry had recent text messages from Leonard saying he could have the lawnmower as a gift. Therefore, there was a reasonable doubt that the lawn mower was stolen property.
Element #2: You Were In Possession Of The Object
The definition of Element #2 is that you were in possession of the stolen property. This means that you actually possessed an object that was stolen property. In order to prove this element, it must be shown that you specifically possessed the stolen property.
- Example: Keith lived in a house share with several roommates. One of his roommates returned home one day with a bike he said was stolen, and parked it in the living room. Later that day, the police got a warrant to search Keith’s house.
They found the stolen bike, and all of the roommates were charged with possession of the stolen property. However, because Keith was not involved in the bike being in the house, and had no intention to use it, it could not be proven that he was actually in possession of the bike.
Element #3: You Knew The Object Was Stolen Property
The definition of Element #3 is that you knew that you knew the object in your possession was stolen property. This means that you had possession of an object while being aware that it was stolen property. The prosecution must show that you were cognizant of the fact that it was stolen while it was in your possession.
- Example: Sarah’s boyfriend came home one day with a beautiful necklace that he said was a gift for her. He told her that he saved up and bought it from the jewelry store in town.
In fact, the necklace was actually stolen. However, because Sarah truly did not know it was stolen, she could not be proven guilty of possession of a stolen object.
Element #4: You Intended to Benefit from the Object, and/or to Keep It From The Owner
The definition of Element #4 is that you intended to benefit from the object or to prevent the return of the object to the owner. This means that you possessed the stolen property with a specific intention: namely, for you or anyone but the owner to derive benefit from it, or simply to prevent the return of the property to the owner.
- Example: Henrietta and her sister were in a bitter feud over their mother’s inheritance. Henrietta took a serving plate from her sister’s home that she felt should have been hers in the will. As soon as she got back to her house, she put the serving plate in a closet and closed the door.
Officers were able to obtain the plate a few weeks later, and Henrietta’s sister pressed charges for possession of a stolen object. Henrietta argued that she was not going to use or sell the plate, and therefore didn’t intend to derive benefit from it.
However, simply intending to prevent the return of the object to the owner was enough to cause to prove the element.
- It is important to note that in New York State, there is a legal presumption that if you are in possession of the stolen property, you intend to use it to benefit yourself. In this instance, it is on the defense, rather than the prosecution, to prove otherwise.
Criminal possessions of stolen property in the fourth to the first degree are all felonies. Because these statutes have specific requirements (i.e., a minimum value for the stolen property and specific types of stolen property), they are less widely applicable than the misdemeanor criminal possession in the fifth degree. Still, they can apply to a wide variety of people.
Specifically, when it comes to criminal possession of the stolen property in the fourth degree, anyone involved in professionally buying or selling real estate and/or collateral brokers are particularly affected, since being in either of those professions can increase the charge from the fifth degree to the fourth degree automatically.
Another thing to remember is that under the New York penal code, power of parole laws allow for first time lighter offenders to get less or no jail time. However, this is not applicable to federally charged cases of first-degree criminal possession.
There are a number of offenses you may be charged with instead of, or in addition to, criminal possession of the stolen property. The most common co-charge is larceny (either petit or grand), which is generally brought alongside criminal possession when the defendant actually stole or caused the theft of the property themselves.
Other related offenses include robbery, burglary, and embezzlement.
Related Offense #1: Petit Larceny
- The definition of petit larceny is wrongfully taking property or services valued at no more than $1,000.00.
- Petit larceny is, essentially, petty theft. It includes most shoplifting cases (of items under $1,000.00). It also includes cases where the defendant utilizes a service worth under $1,000.00 and does not pay.
- Example: Jake was at a video game store and slipped a Playstation 4 under his shirt. Outside, he was caught by the store’s security guard. He was therefore charged with both possession of a stolen object and petit larceny.
- It is important to note that it’s up to the discretion of the District Attorney whether to charge a defendant with both criminal possession and petit larceny. Often, if the defendant is a first time offender, the D.A. will only pursue one of the charges.
Related Offense #2: Grand Larceny
- The definition of grand larceny is wrongfully taking property or services valued anywhere from $1,000.00 to over 1 million dollars.
- Like possession of stolen objects, grand larceny has various degrees under which you can be charged.
- Grand larceny in the fourth degree can be charged when the property is worth more than $1,000.00 when the property was obtained by any form of extortion when the property consists of one or more firearm.
When the property is a public record or belongs to a public servant, or when the property is secret scientific material, a credit or debit card, a car or a religious item worth more than $100.00, ammonia intended to be used to manufacture methamphetamine, or a device intended to be used to obtain cable or telephone service unlawfully.
- Grand larceny in the third degree can be charged when the property is worth over $3,000.00, and/or when the property is an ATM or the contents of an ATM.
- Grand larceny in the second degree can be charged if the property is worth over $50,000.00, and/or the property was obtained by a specific form of extortion (namely, if a defendant obtains property by making a victim afraid that someone will cause physical injury or property damage, or if a defendant obtains property by threatening to use his position as a public servant to harm a victim).
- Grand larceny in the first degree can be charged when the property is worth over one million dollars.
- It is important to note that “embezzlement,” while not actually it’s own separate crime, is a very commonly applied type of grand larceny, usually pertaining to the theft of money.
- For example, Peter was an influential city official. Sam was trying to get a permit to build a new house in the same city. Sam had a car that Peter liked. Peter told Sam that if he didn’t give him the car, he would blackball Sam’s permit and prevent him from being able to build his house.
Sam felt that he had no choice but to give Peter the car. He then decided to report Peter, who was charged with both criminal possession of the stolen property and grand larceny in the second degree.
Related Offense #3: Robbery
- The definition of robbery is forcible stealing, wherein the defendant threatens or uses physical force on another person in order to compel them to surrender their property or prevent them from resisting.
- Robbery is essentially larceny, but with the threat or use of force. Like larceny, it can also be charged in various degrees.
- Robbery in the third degree can be charged whenever a defendant forcibly steals property.
- Robbery in the second degree can be charged when the defendant is aided by another present person, when the defendant or an accomplice causes any physical injury or displays what appears to be a firearm, and/or when the stolen property is a motor vehicle.
- Robbery in the first degree can be charged if the defendant or his accomplish cause serious physical injury, is armed with a deadly weapon, threatens to use a dangerous object, or displays a loaded firearm.
- Example: John and Jill approached Leroy with what appeared to be a gun. They told Leroy to give them his wallet, which he did. They were apprehended down the street by the police with Leroy’s wallet and were charged with both robberies in the second degree and criminal possession of the stolen property.
Related Offense #4: Burglary
- The definition of burglary is unlawfully entering a building with the intent to commit a crime.
- Burglary means criminally trespassing on a building or property, specifically in order to commit a crime. This is a separate charge from any other crime the defendant ultimately commits.
- Burglary in the first degree has a harsher penalty and can be charged if the building is a dwelling if the defendant is armed with a deadly weapon or explosives, if the defendant causes injury to anyone not participating in the crime, or if the defendant threatens to use a dangerous instrument or firearm.
- Example: Fred knew that Joseph had a valuable rare book collection. He waited for a night that Fred was away, and then broke into Fred’s house and took the books. He was, therefore, able to be charged with both criminal possession of stolen property and burglary in the first degree, since he unlawfully entered Joseph’s house with the intention of stealing the books.
What are some of the essential and impactful cases?
There are many important and impactful cases regarding criminal possession of the stolen property. In one of these cases, People v. Jaffe, it was originally established as common law that goods once stolen but recovered by police and used for a subsequent sale, such as in a sting operation, could not be considered “stolen goods,” as they were now in possession of the police.
It would, therefore, be a legal impossibility for a person to be guilty of criminal possession or attempted criminal possession of the stolen goods in that case because the goods were no longer considered truly “stolen.”
However, this is no longer a viable defense. New York State amended the law to clearly state that even if it was a “legal impossibility” that the goods in that instance were stolen, that is not a defense against the charge of a crime. If a person acts in such a way that they would have possessed or attempted to possess stolen goods, the actual status of the goods is irrelevant.
What agencies detect, investigate, and prosecute this crime?
The agencies involved in the investigation and prosecution of this crime are, primarily, local police departments and District Attorney’s offices. In some instances, such as when a criminal possession case crosses state lines, federal courts and investigative teams will become involved.
What are the statutory penalties if you are convicted of this crime?
The statutory penalties if you are convicted of criminal possession of stolen objects depends on the degree to which you are convicted.
In all cases, when convicted of criminal possession, jail time is a possibility, as are fines and damages for the stolen property. When it comes to criminal possession, you could face anything from probation to 25 years in prison.
Penalties for Violating Criminal Possession of Stolen Objects:
- Criminal possession of stolen possessions in the fifth degree is a Class A misdemeanor. The potential penalties include:
- Imprisonment for up to 1 year.
- Criminal possession of stolen objects in the fourth degree is a Class E felony. The potential penalties include:
- Imprisonment for up to 4 years.
- Criminal possession of stolen objects in the third degree is a Class D felony. The potential penalties include:
- Imprisonment for up to 7 years.
- Criminal possession of stolen objects in the second degree is a Class C felony. The potential penalties include:
- Imprisonment for up to 15 years.
- Criminal possession of stolen objects in the first degree is a Class B felony. The potential penalties include:
- Imprisonment for up to 25 years.
The penalties for criminal possession of stolen property tend to be steeper if :
- You have a criminal record
- You are convicted of other crimes alongside criminal possession.
What are some of the additional consequences of being convicted?
Being convicted of criminal possession of the stolen property can be absolutely catastrophic. If convicted in the fourth to the first degree, you will be a felon for the rest of your life, which means that many opportunities will be closed to you.
In addition, your career may suffer severely if your employer, or potential future employers, are alerted to your conviction. If you are licensed to practice in a specific field (education, medicine, law, etc.), the respective licensing boards may also be notified and may take action.
Most counts of criminal possession of the stolen property are considered “aggravated felonies.” This means that if you are an immigrant, you may be barred from obtaining full U.S. citizenship, and may even be deported.
Nobody wants to go to jail, and nobody wants a conviction on their record. An experienced attorney can deploy several powerful legal defenses on your behalf, which can be used to fight the charges against you.
Defense #1: You did not know the property was stolen.
One of the defenses for criminal possession is that the defendant did not know the property was stolen. It is the most common and most effective defense for this crime. This can defense can apply both in cases where you bought or received an item you didn’t know was stolen, or cases where you inadvertently kept a stolen property in your home.
- Example: Doreen’s grandson gave her a washing machine and installed it in her house. As it turned out, he had stolen the washing machine, and police traced it back to Doreen’s house.
Her grandson was arrested and charged for the theft and attempted to charge Doreen with unlawful possession since she had the machine in her house and had been benefiting from it. However, her defense attorney was able to prove that Doreen did not know the washing machine was stolen, and the charges were therefore dropped.
Defense #2: You intended to return the property to its owner.
Another defense for criminal possession is that you intended to return the property to its owner. This defense is often employed in cases where the defendant only learned that the object was stolen property after it came into their possession.
The defense can argue that because of the stakes of possessing stolen property, you may not have known what to do or how to return it, but intended to do so rather than keeping it for your own benefit.
Defense #3: It was legally impossible for the object to be stolen property.
A third possible defense for criminal possession is that it was legally impossible for the object to be stolen property. This generally applies in cases where a defendant buys an object from an undercover police officer in a sting.
If you are charged with criminal possession of the stolen property, it is crucial that you enlist the help of a lawyer as soon as possible.
Criminal possession of the stolen property is a very serious charge with very serious consequences. Leaving the outcome of such a high-stakes trial to chance could potentially ruin your life.
- representation during questioning and interrogation;
- negotiation and communication with the investigator;
- assessments and recommendations from your lawyer;
- risk of statements to agencies and investigators;
- trial strategies.
Call us for help.
For questions about (Your Statute and Your Topic), or to discuss your case confidentially with one of our criminal defense attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us. We have local criminal law offices in your area.
1. Operation Ghost Ride: A.G. Schneiderman Announces Guilty Pleas and Convictions of Owners of Albany Transportation Companies for Stealing Thousands in Medicaid Transit Scam
October 31st, 2017
Percy Sanville Jr. and Rafael Gonzalez, owners of the All-Star Transportation Group, were indicted for stealing over $50,000.00 by issuing false transportation service claims from Medicaid. They were charged with multiple counts of grand larceny and possession of the stolen property.
The charges were the result of an undercover investigation by the Attorney General’s office, code-named “Operation Ghost Ride.” Sanville pled guilty to one count of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony. Under the terms of his plea agreement, he will serve two to six years in prison.
Gonzalez pled guilty to one count of Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a class E felony. Under the terms of his plea, he will serve two to four years in prison.
2. A.G. Schneiderman Announces Takedown of Massive Organized Theft Ring: “Operation Sticky Fingers.”
March 15th, 2017
Twelve people were charged with participating in a crime ring. They were indicted for stealing over $12 million in electronics and ink cartridges from Staples, Office Depot, and BestBuy stores in 28 states, and then re-selling the stolen property on Amazon and eBay.
The defendants were charged with enterprise corruption, money laundering, criminal possession of the stolen property, and conspiracy. The charges were the result of a ten-month investigation conducted by the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force and the NY State Police, codenamed “Operation Sticky Fingers.”
The kingpin of the crime ring, Richard Rimbaugh, pled guilty to charges of enterprise corruption, money laundering, and criminal possession of the stolen property. He was given three to nine years in prison and forfeited $7.28 million of illegal proceeds. Nine other members of the crime ring pled guilty as well, including George Rapatsouleas, a leader of one of Rimbaugh’s theft crews. Rapatsouleas was given two to six years in prison.
3. A.G. Schneiderman Announces Arrest of Guilderland Town Judge Richard Sherwood and Financial Advisor Thomas Lagan for Stealing Over $11 Million From Trusts They Were Responsible for Overseeing
June 11th, 2018
Judge Richard Sherwood of Guilderland, NY, and his attorney and financial advisor Thomas Lagan were charged with allegedly stealing over $11 million from family trusts they were responsible for overseeing. The trusts were funded by philanthropists Warren and Pauline Bruggeman.
Sherwood and Lagan provided estate planning and related legal/financial services to the Bruggemans, and to Pauline Bruggeman’s sister, Anne Urban. They allegedly misappropriated money from the Bruggeman’s trust funds for their own financial gain, in installments that added up to millions of dollars.
Sherwood and Lagan were both charged with two counts of Grand Larceny in the First Degree, one count of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, and two counts of Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the First Degree. Sherwood pleads guilty to Grand Larceny in the Second Degree. He resigned as Guilderland Town Judge, forfeited $3,742,211.65 and lakefront property, and faces three to ten years in prison. Lagan pleads guilty to Grand Larceny in the First Degree and faces 4 to 12 years in prison.
4. A.G. Schneiderman Announces Indictment of 11 Individuals in Alleged Criminal Network That Stole High-End Motorcycles for Shipment to the Dominican Republic.
February 15th, 2017
11 people (Juana Galarza, Pablo Nunez, Brandon Williams, Luis Vargas, Carlos Valverde, Jean Herrera, Christian Perez, Richard Lovell, and Steven Reese) were charged with stealing high-end motorcycles and dismantling them for transportation to the Dominican Republic.
The indictment was the result of a two-year investigation conducted by the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force and the NYPD’s Auto Crime Division, codenamed “Operation Steal Horses.”
The defendants were charged with Criminal Possession of Stolen Property charges, as well as Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree, for conspiring to steal and/or possess 32 stolen motorcycles and one Dodge Charger.
5. A.G. Schneiderman Announces Second Indictment of NYC Man on Identity Theft Charges
December 5th, 2018
Sharif King was indicted for stealing the identity of a prospective employee to fraudulently buy a Mercedes Benz, at the cost of approximately $58,000.00. He was charged with Grand Larceny, Criminal Possession of Stolen Property, Identity Theft, Forgery, and Falsifying Business Records.
He had previously been charged with Scheme to Defraud, Identity Theft, and Grand Larceny in 2015 for a similar identity theft scheme. King pleaded guilty to both indictments in March of 2018 and was sentenced to 7 ½ to 15 years in state prison.
6. Brooklyn Man Indicted for Violent Home Invasion Burglary of Elderly Woman
January 23rd, 2019
Mark Malone was arraigned for allegedly attacking, beating, and robbing an 88-year old woman in her home on Christmas day.
He was charged with First, Second, and Third Degree Burglary, Second and Third Degree Robbery, two counts of Second Degree Assault, Fifth Degree Criminal Possession of Stolen Property, Second and Third Degree Criminal Trespass, and Seventh Degree Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance. Bail was set at $500,000 bond or $250,000 cash.
7. Long Island Man Sentenced to 4 ½ to 9 years in Prison in Connection with Stealing Nine Homes from Owners by Illegally Transferring Titles, Filing False Documents
Danny Noble of Baldwin, New York was indicted for illegally transferring the titles of seven houses in Brooklyn and two houses in Queens from their true owners to himself and then renting out or selling the properties. He worked alongside a co-conspirator, Romelo Grey, of Freeport, New York.
Noble pled guilty to First Degree Criminal Possession of Stolen Property and Fourth Degree Conspiracy and was sentenced to 4 ½ to 9 years in prison. Grey pled guilty to falsifying business records and was sentenced to 1 ½ to 3 years in prison.
8. Former HR Director Indicted for Allegedly Embezzling Over $100,000 from Transportation Conglomerate
December 18th, 2018
Iris Davila, a former HR director, and office manager of Consolidated Bus Transit (CBT) was indicted for allegedly stealing over $100,000 from CBT through a check scheme. According to the indictment, she allegedly made checks out to cash under false pretenses, claiming that the funds were being used to purchase necessary accident reports and other documents.
Davila was charged with two counts of Second Degree Grand Larceny, one count of Third Degree Grand larceny, Second Degree Criminal Possession of Stolen Property, and five counts of First Degree Falsifying Business Records. She was released without bail to await her court date.
9. Brooklyn Con Artist Going to Prison After Jury Conviction in “Jail Bail” Grandparent Scam
March 15th, 2019
George Etienne of Brooklyn was convicted at trial of swindling $20,000.00 from a then 90-year-old California man. Etienne told the victim that he was his grandson and that he was in jail and needed the money to be sent for bail.
A jury convicted Etienne of Third Degree Criminal Possession of Stolen Property and Second Degree Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument. Etienne faces up to seven years in prison. Sentencing is set for May 7th, 2019.
10. Two Men Allegedly Caught Mailbox “Fishing” in Queens Charged with Burglary, Possessing Stolen Property, and More
November 30th, 2018
Alvaro Martinez and Luis Velazquez were indicted for allegedly stealing mail dropped in mailboxes in the Forest Hills and Richmond Hill neighborhoods of Queens. The two allegedly used “fishing rods” made from shoestring and rodent glue traps in order to procure envelopes from various mailboxes.
When they were apprehended, they were in possession of dozens of pieces of both opened and unopened mail. At least one envelope contained a check for $4,000.00. They were charged with Third Degree Burglary, First Degree Criminal Tampering, Third Degree Criminal Possession of Stolen Property, First Degree Identity Theft, and Possession of Burglar’s Tools. If convicted, they face up to seven years in prison.
Their next court date is at the end of May 2019.