Published on:

Evidence Issues in Dealing in Stolen Property Cases

In Florida, the crime of dealing in stolen property is committed when a person “deals” in property that he/she knows or should know is stolen. This is a second degree felony that is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

So how does the state prove that a person knew or should have known the property was stolen? Obviously the defendant can make it easy on the state and admit that he/she knew the property was stolen. However, absent a confession by the defendant, the state must rely on circumstantial evidence to prove the defendant knew or should have known the property was stolen. One way the state endeavors to prove this crime is by showing that the defendant was in possession of the stolen property shortly after it was stolen. If a burglary happened at noon and the defendant is seen pawning one of the stolen items at 2:00 pm, the state is entitled to argue that the defendant was involved in the burglary and knew the property was stolen.

What about when the defendant is selling the stolen property days or weeks after the theft? The defendant can argue that he/she obtained the property in any number of legitimate ways during that time. One way the state can try to circumstantially prove the defendant knew or should have known the property was stolen when the defendant sold it at a later date is the price for which the defendant sold the property. If the defendant sold the property for a price that is much lower than the value of the property, than the state will argue the defendant knew or should have known the property was stolen. In fact, the state may be entitled to an instruction from the judge to the jury in the dealing in stolen property case that instructs the jury that they can infer that the defendant knew or should have known the property was stolen based on the sale price. The defendant can provide an explanation for why he/she sold the property for substantially less than its value, but evidence of such a sale may be enough to prove that the defendant knew or should have known the property was stolen and a conviction for dealing in stolen property.