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New York Criminal Possession Of Stolen Property

By Spodek Law Group | October 18, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 19, 2023)

Last Updated on: 19th October 2023, 02:24 pm

New York Criminal Possession Of Stolen Property

Criminal possession of stolen property is a serious crime in New York, carrying penalties ranging from a misdemeanor to a felony depending on the value of the stolen property and the circumstances of the crime. This article will provide an overview of the law, defenses, and potential consequences of criminal possession charges in New York.

The Law

New York has five degrees of criminal possession of stolen property, ranging from a class A misdemeanor to a class B felony:

  • Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fifth Degree (PL § 165.40) – A class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail. Requires knowingly possessing stolen property with intent to benefit oneself or impede recovery by the owner.
  • Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fourth Degree (PL § 165.45) – A class E felony, punishable by up to 4 years in prison. Requires possession of stolen property exceeding $1,000 in value, or possession of stolen credit/debit cards or public benefit cards.
  • Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Third Degree (PL § 165.50) – A class D felony, punishable by up to 7 years in prison. Requires possession of stolen property exceeding $3,000 in value.
  • Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Second Degree (PL § 165.52) – A class C felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Requires possession of stolen property exceeding $50,000 in value.
  • Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the First Degree (PL § 165.54) – A class B felony, punishable by up to 25 years in prison. Requires possession of stolen property exceeding $1 million in value.

To be convicted, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knowingly possessed stolen property with intent to benefit themselves or someone else, or to impede recovery by the owner. Knowledge that the property was stolen can be inferred if the defendant possessed 3+ stolen airline tickets or 2+ stolen credit/debit cards[1].

The prosecution does not need to prove the defendant actually stole the property. Even buying or receiving stolen goods constitutes criminal possession[2].


There are several possible defenses to criminal possession charges:

  • Lack of knowledge – If there is no evidence the defendant knew the property was stolen, they cannot be convicted. This is a common defense for those who unknowingly purchased stolen goods.
  • No intent to keep the property – If the defendant intended to return the property to its owner, they lacked intent to benefit themselves or impede recovery.
  • Entrapment – If the police induced the defendant to obtain stolen property, entrapment may apply.
  • Duress – If the defendant only possessed stolen property due to threat of harm, duress could provide a defense.

An experienced criminal defense attorney can evaluate the evidence and determine if any defenses apply to your case.


The penalties for criminal possession of stolen property can be severe depending on the degree and your criminal record:

  • Jail/prison – Each degree carries potential jail or prison time, from 1 year to 25 years. Prior felonies mean harsher sentences.
  • Fines – Criminal fines up to $5,000 or more may be imposed. The court can also order restitution to victims.
  • Probation – Terms of probation may include community service, restitution, drug/alcohol testing, and other conditions.
  • Permanent criminal record – These offenses are crimes, not just violations, so convictions stay on your criminal record.
  • Impact on immigration – Convictions can trigger deportation for non-citizens and prevent naturalization.
  • Employment issues – Many employers conduct background checks and will not hire those with criminal records.
  • Loss of licenses – Professional licenses can be suspended or revoked after a criminal conviction.

Any criminal charge is serious, but criminal possession of stolen property allegations should not be taken lightly given the wide-ranging consequences. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can thoroughly evaluate the prosecution’s case and build the strongest defense to avoid these penalties.

Specific Defenses

There are many potential defenses that a skilled lawyer may use to fight criminal possession of stolen property charges, depending on the facts of the case[3]:

You Did Not Know the Property Was Stolen

If the prosecution cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you actually knew the property was stolen at the time you possessed it, this can defeat the charges. This is common when someone unwittingly purchases stolen goods.

You Did Not Intend to Permanently Deprive the Owner

The intent to benefit yourself or permanently deprive the owner is a required element. If you intended to return the property to its owner, or there is reasonable doubt about your intent, the charges should fail.


If the police induced or persuaded you to obtain or possess the stolen goods, when you otherwise would not have, an entrapment defense may succeed. This applies to undercover operations targeting fencing operations.

Duress or Coercion

If you only possessed the stolen property due to threats of physical harm against you or loved ones, a duress defense could potentially defeat the charges.

Lack of Actual or Constructive Possession

If the prosecution cannot prove you actually or constructively possessed the stolen property, such as having dominion and control over it, possession is not established.

Wrong Description of Property

If the prosecutor charges you with possessing stolen property, but inaccurately describes or overvalues the property, this can undermine the charges.

An experienced criminal lawyer will know how to analyze the evidence and identify any viable defenses to aggressively defend your rights and freedom.

Sentencing Guidelines

If convicted of criminal possession of stolen property, the following sentencing guidelines generally apply in New York[4]:

Fifth Degree

As a class A misdemeanor, up to 1 year in jail and/or a fine up to $1,000 may be imposed. First-time offenders sometimes get no jail and only probation.

Fourth Degree

This class E felony carries 1 to 4 years in state prison. Probation with some jail may be allowed for those with no prior felonies.

Third Degree

The sentencing range is 1 to 7 years in state prison. Some county jail may be permitted for first-time felons or those with minor criminal histories.

Second Degree

At least 3 to 15 years in state prison is common for this class C felony. Extensive criminal histories can result in maximum 15 year sentences.

First Degree

As a class B felony, sentences of 6 to 25 years in state prison are typical. Maximum 25-year sentences are given to serious repeat offenders.

Judges consider the facts of the case and your criminal history when imposing a sentence. An experienced lawyer can argue for mitigation and negotiate plea bargains to minimize penalties.

Collateral Consequences

Beyond jail/prison time, fines, and probation, a criminal conviction carries additional consequences that can seriously impact your life[5]:

  • Employment – Many employers conduct background checks and will not hire those with criminal records, especially for felonies. Certain careers may be off-limits, like banking, education, government, etc.
  • Housing – Landlords often deny housing applications for those with criminal histories. Felonies and some misdemeanors may make you ineligible for public housing.
  • Immigration – Criminal convictions can lead to deportation and permanent inadmissibility for non-citizens, separating families.
  • Family Rights – Convictions can negatively impact child custody, visitation, and termination of parental rights.
  • Student Loans/Grants – Those with drug convictions may be denied federal student aid and loans for a period.
  • Gun Rights – Felony convictions prohibit gun ownership/possession in New York. Some misdemeanors also lead to bans.
  • Driving Privileges – While these charges do not directly suspend a driver’s license, related fines may prevent license renewal.
  • Professional Licenses – Various professional/occupational licenses can be revoked over criminal convictions, depending on the field.
  • Voting Rights – Felony convictions in New York prevent someone from voting while incarcerated and while on parole.

These severe collateral consequences demonstrate the critical need for an experienced criminal defense attorney when facing any criminal prosecution.

Possible Additional Charges

Prosecutors often pile on additional related charges along with criminal possession offenses, which can compound penalties if convicted. Common accompanying charges may include[6]:

  • Petit Larceny (PL § 155.25) – If evidence shows you actually stole property under $1,000 in value.
  • Grand Larceny (PL § 155.30-155.42) – Different degrees based on value apply if evidence proves you stole the property.
  • Burglary (PL § 140.20-140.30) – If the theft occurred by unlawful entry into a building.
  • Robbery (PL § 160.05-160.15) – If force or threats were used in stealing the property.
  • Forgery (PL § 170.05-170.30) – If you falsified documents or signatures relating to the stolen property.
  • Fraudulent Accosting (PL § 165.30(1)) – If soliciting a fee to recover stolen property for the owner.
  • Enterprise Corruption (PL § 460.20) – If possessing stolen property for an organized crime/gang enterprise.

Skilled criminal defense counsel can often get accompanying charges dismissed or reduced through effective pretrial negotiations.

Facing criminal prosecution for possessing stolen property can be an overwhelming and terrifying experience. But with an experienced New York criminal defense lawyer on your side, you can rest assured knowing your rights will be protected each step of the way.

A knowledgeable attorney will thoroughly investigate your case, identify viable defenses, negotiate for dismissal or reduced charges, and build the strongest case possible. They will aggressively defend your freedom before trial, and if necessary, take your case to trial for an acquittal by jury.

Don’t leave your fate to chance. The costs of a conviction are simply too high. Instead, put an accomplished criminal lawyer on your side to fight for the best possible outcome. With skilled legal representation, you can mitigate or avoid the worst penalties, so you can move on with your life.

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