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When can you be arrested for buying a stolen item?

Many of us are going to be out looking for bargains in the coming weeks as the holiday season descends upon us. Besides looking for deep discounts at Connecticut retailers, many people expand their search for gifts to thrift stores, swap meets and online to sites like eBay and Craigslist.

Few people know the history of the second-hand item that they're purchasing. What if it was stolen? Is the purchaser breaking the law by buying a stolen item?

Under the law, if an individual unknowingly purchases an item that was stolen, that person probably has nothing to worry about. Connecticut law states that for someone to be charged with receiving stolen goods (also known as larceny), the state has to prove that the person knew or believed that the item that he or she received, kept and/or disposed of was stolen. If and when people find out that they have unknowingly purchased a stolen item, they will likely be required to return the item to the rightful owner.

The burden regarding receipt of stolen goods is greater for second-hand sellers such as flea market and swap meet vendors as well as pawnshop and thrift store owners. These people are expected to make a reasonable effort to ensure that the products they purchase have not been stolen.

Connecticut vendors and business owners who purchase items for resale should seek legal guidance to ascertain specifically what their legal responsibilities are. This can help ensure that they are not purchasing stolen goods.

If a Connecticut resident has purchased an item that he or she comes to believe or know was stolen, it's also wise to seek legal guidance. A criminal defense attorney can advise you about what to do with that item in order to comply with the law. If you want to avoid potential issues, it's best to remember that if the price of an item seems too good to be true, there's likely a reason.

Source: FindLaw, "Can You Get Arrested for Buying Stolen Goods?," Brett Snider, Esq., accessed Nov. 25, 2015

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