Pawning Stolen Property
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Pawning Stolen Property

Sometimes a person may happen upon stolen property. There may be many innocent reasons for why he or she is in possession of such property. There may be many reasons to support why he or she never would have stolen the property. 

In many cases, stolen property may wind up at a pawn shop or other second-hand store. Such stores have risen in popularity during the last several years. There are even prominent television shows based on the pawn industry.

Reasons Items Are Pawned

Sometimes people may have an item that has a certain value to it that no longer has much value to them. They may not use the item and may prefer to pawn the item or sell it to a pawn shop in order to get some monetary value out of it, even if this is less value than they may get by selling it to someone personally. In other situations, a person may need money and may pawn or sell an item in order to get the money they need. If the item is pawned, the item basically serves as collateral for a loan, and the person placing the item up for pawn may make payments on this loan or risk losing the property. In other situations, someone steals property and then pawns it in order to get money out of these stolen items. 

Sometimes someone may ask someone else to pawn or sell items for him or her for various reasons. However, this situation can possibly result in criminal culpability if the property is stolen. 

Trafficking of Stolen Property

Many states have laws regarding trafficking stolen property. Statutes may state that someone who traffics in or attempts to traffic in property that he or she knows to be stolen is subject to criminal charges. Some states charge this offense as a felony. Others consider the offense to be the same level as the crime that involved the original stealing of the property. 

Knowledge of Stolen Property

Many criminal defenses for this charge hinge on whether the defendant knew that he or she was in possession of stolen property. This is often the most common defense to this crime due to knowledge typically being a necessary element to the crime. 


In order to combat the common defense of not knowing that the property in question was stolen, some states have established inferences that are part of state laws when concerning knowledge of stolen property. For example, Florida’s statute states that being in possession of property that was recently stoles gives rise to the inference that the person who is found to be in possession of the property knew that it was stolen. The statute does provide for the possibility that the person in possession may be able to satisfactorily explain this quandary. There are also specific exceptions that the state law permits. 

This state also uses an inference if a person buys stolen property for a price that is significantly below market value. The state statute on this matter states that proof of the purchase that is substantially lower than the fair market value gives rise to the inference that the person in possession knows that the property was stolen. Again, the statute allows for the possibility that the person in possession may be able to satisfactorily explain the reason for this situation. 

Other Defenses

When there is an inference built into state law that someone should know that property is stolen and can face criminal culpability for such items to be in his or her possession, it can be difficult to rise above this inference. However, both inferences discussed above do provide for the opportunity of the defendant to provide a reasonable explanation. Someone may be in possession of certain items because a friend asked him or her to hold them. He or she may be in the repair business and may be fixing an item believed to belong to the individual and not believing that the item was stolen. A purchase of property substantially below fair market value may be based on a defect of the property or a low valuation. 

Penalties for Pawning Property that Was Stolen

If a person pawns property that was stolen, he or she may face criminal charges for this act. This crime is sometimes charged as a second degree felony. In Florida, this crime is associated with up to 15 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000 upon conviction. It is best to contact a criminal defense lawyer to avoid such penalties.


Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.
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