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Using the “Obvious” as Part of the Criminal Prosecution or Defense to a NY Criminal Possession of Stolen Property Arrest

While it is sometimes fairly easy for prosecutors to establish the crime of Criminal Possession of Stolen Property after a defendant admits to knowing the property is stolen or the defendant is observed actually stealing the property, not all arrests and indictments in New York for Criminal Possession of Stolen Property are that clear. Instead, some Grand Larceny and Criminal Possession of Stolen Property cases defended by criminal defense attorneys are allegations that are based more on circumstantial evidence or presumptions found in the New York Penal Law. Prosecutors in New York often even ask jurors and judges to rely on their common sense when determining if a crime has been committed (who would have thought that?!?!). In the realm of New York arrests involving Criminal Possession of Stolen Property, a criminal lawyer needs to be ready for anything.

In People v. Bester, 163 A.D.2d 873 (4th Dept. 1990), a defendant was arrested for violating New York Penal Law 165.50. Prosecutors were required to prove Third Degree Criminal Possession of Stolen Property by establishing beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knowingly possessed property with the intent to benefit himself and the property was worth more than $3,000 but not more than $50,000. There, the defendant argued that prosecutors failed to establish the defendant’s knowledge that he knew the property was stolen. Bester claimed that he purchased a properly packaged fibergastroscope (a medical device) from a pawn broker for $20 without any knowledge it was stolen.

Assuming the above was true, the evidence at trial also established that the defendant purchased the item one day after it was stolen. More problematic, Bester’s purchase price tipped the scales. Bester paid $20 for medical equipment valued at approximately $12,000. Although the Court did not comment much further, the Court noted that the medical equipment was sophisticated. I think it is fair to say that it seemed more than reasonable that if one paid $20 for an item valued in excess of $10,000, it may be fair to conclude the one knew the item was stolen (subject to other evidence).

While Bester demonstrates an extreme example, what about arrests for Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in New York that involve cars or other vehicles? In People v. Arnold, 194 A.D.2d 798 (2nd Dept. 1993), the defendant was arrested driving a stolen vehicle. Like Bester, Arnold was charged with Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Third Degree pursuant to NY PL 165.50. In Arnold, there was no apparent damage to the vehicle (broken window, tampered ignition, etc.) to indicate the card had been stolen. Further, the defendant’s use and conduct with the car did not corroborate any criminal knowledge (he didn’t ditch the car or speed away when approached by the police). As a result, the Court came to a different conclusion than their colleagues in Bester and dismissed the case.

The above two examples demonstrate some of the factors that may come into play when prosecutors attempt to prove the criminal case against you beyond a reasonable doubt. Are these all the factors? Certainly not. Would other factors, such as an admission, alter an outcome? That is certainly possible as well. Remember, each case may share some traits with another involving the same crime, but every case is unique. Whether these cases or the principles and issues addressed in them are helpful in your particular arrest for Criminal Possession of Stolen Property is something to discuss with your own criminal attorney.

To learn about the degrees of New York Criminal Possession of Stolen Property and the statutes, legal decisions and cases that constitute these crimes, review the links above or the content at and NewYorkTheftAndLarcenyLawyers.Com linked below.

Saland Law PC, a New York theft and larceny criminal defense firm, represents clients in Grand Larceny and Criminal Possession of Stolen Property investigations, arrests, indictments and trials in New York City and the suburban region. The two founding New York criminal lawyers at Saland Law PC both served as prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

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