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Receiving Stolen Property
PC 496(a) Law & Defense

Information on the crime of receiving stolen property, also known as buy or receive stolen property, is found at California penal code section 496(a).

To prove that the defendant is guilty of receiving stolen property the district attorney must prove:

  • The defendant bought, received, or sold property that had been taken without consent (stolen), and

  • When the defendant bought, received, or sold the property he or she knew that the property had been stolen

Property is stolen if it is obtained by any type of theft, including theft, embezzlement, fraud, robbery, extortion, burglary, etc. (PC 496(a)).

Receiving stolen property means to take possession of property and control or conceal it. Two or more people can possess and control property at the same time. The defendant does not actually have to hold the stolen property; it is enough that the defendant has access to control the property, either personally, constructively, or through another person.


The crime of receipt of stolen property may be charged as either a misdemeanor or as a felony. Whether or not the district attorney files misdemeanor or felony PC 496(a) charges depends mostly on the facts of the case and the criminal history of the defendant.

Jail: Felony PC 496(a) charges carry a maximum punishment of up to three years in jail. Misdemeanor PC 496(a) charges carry a maximum punishment of up to one year in the county jail.

Probation Sentence: Probation sentences, with or without jail, may be available upon a conviction for receiving stolen property. Whether or not a probation sentence is available will depend on the facts of the case and the defendant's criminal history. Probation sentences are served by fulfilling probation terms. The probation terms can include jail, but usually a probation sentence for any conviction of receiving stolen property is served by work release or electronic monitoring (house arrest).

PC 1170(h) Sentencing: If the defendant is not granted a probation sentence after a conviction for receiving stolen property then he or she may serve any  incarceration in a county jail (as opposed to a state prison), and part of that  jail sentence may be served our of jail on work release (split sentence).

Firearm Prohibition: Felony convictions for receiving stolen property carry a lifetime ban on ownership or possession of a firearm.

Note: PC 496(a) is not considered a strike offense under California's Three Strikes Sentencing Law. PC 496(a) is not a serious or violent offense as those terms are defined under California law. If the defendant is ordered to jail after a conviction for PC 496(a) he or she  will be eligible for up to fifty percent (50%) credit off of his or her jail or jail sentence for good behavior while incarcerated.

Additional Punishment: In addition to any jail or prison sentence, if found guilty of PC 496(a), the defendant may suffer any of the additional punishments: fines, restitution, criminal protective orders, enhanced penalties for subsequent criminal convictions, loss of right to an occupational or professional license, civil lawsuits, immigration consequences, denial of enlistment in the US military (or discharge), and more. 



Common defenses to a charge of receiving stolen property include: insufficient evidence to prove the defendant knew, or reasonably should have known that the property was stolen, intoxication, entrapment, mistake of fact, insanity, alibi, coerced confessions, statute of limitations, intent to deliver the property immediately to law enforcement after receiving the property (temporary possession for a legal purpose), claim of right, and more.

To learn more about your rights and options when charged with the crime of receiving stolen property, or California penal code section 496(a), contact our successful and experienced criminal defense attorneys today for a free consultation. Call today!


Related Crimes

  • PC 496a(a) Buy or receive stolen railroad/utility property

  • PC 496d(a) Purchase or receive stolen vehicle

  • PC 497 Bring stolen property into state

  • PC 498b) Unauthorized use of utility service

Quick Legal Reference​

Crime: Receiving Stolen Property

Code: PC 496(a) (CalCrim No. 1750)

Wobbler: Yes. PC 496(a) is a wobbler crime. This means that PC 496(a) is charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor.


Incarceration:Felony PC 496(a) jail sentence range: 16 months, 2 or 3 years jail. Misdemeanor jail sentence up to 1 year.

Probation: Probation is allowed in felony and misdemeanor PC 496(a) cases (assuming other crimes or enhancements that bar a probation sentence are not present). Whether or not a probation sentence is offered by the District Attorney, or granted by the court, depends on several factors, including the defendant's criminal history and the facts of the case.​

Work Release or House Arrest: In some cases, a probation sentence can include actual in-custody county jail, house arrest (electronic monitoring), or work release (or some combination of these penalties); however, most in-custody jail sentence orders that are required as a terms of probation are much shorter than the maximum jail sentence.

PC 1170(h)): Yes. PC 496(a) is subject to PC 1170(h) sentencing. This means that any jail or prison sentence may be:

  • Split (half in-custody / half out-of-custody)

  • Suspended (possibly never served)

  • Served in county jail (not state prison)

  • Note: Limitations may apply

Strike: PC 496(a) is not a strike offense listed in California's Three Strikes law.

Credits: 50% good conduct credits available.

CIMT: PC 496(a) is not a crime involving moral turpitude. Note: To be careful, the record of conviction should reflect a temporary taking.


Firearms: Felony PC 496(a) convictions prohibit a defendant from owning or possessing a firearm. 

Bail: $25,000 (Felony); $5,000 (Misdemeanor) (San Bernardino)

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