What are the best defences to a charge for possession of stolen property?

By Last Updated: July 26, 2022

What are the best defences to a charge for possession of stolen propertyWhile there are a number of excellent defences to a charge for possession of stolen property, the best defence for charges will depend heavily on the circumstances of your case. That being said, in order to find the best defence for your possession of stolen property charges contact one of our criminal defence lawyers as soon as possible. Using our considerable experience with possession offences, we will review the evidence against you and we will be able to determine the most effective way to defend or resolve your matter. However, some common and strong defences to possession of stolen property charges include:

You did not have the mens rea required to be guilty of this offence:

One effective way to defend a possession of stolen property charge is to argue that you did not have the mens rea, or the ‘guilty mind’ required for this offence.

You may be able to argue that you did not have the mens rea required to be found guilty of this offence because you did not know that the property was stolen. It is entirely possible that you purchase property from a friend or another person without knowing that the item was stolen. In such a situation, even though you were in possession of stolen property in a strict sense, you would not have the criminal intent required to be convicted of the offence. However, in order for you to raise this defence you cannot have been wilfully blind to the fact that you possessed stolen property. For example, if you purchased the property from someone in highly suspicious circumstances or in circumstances where the average, reasonable person would readily ascertain that the property was stolen, it is likely that you will have a difficult time proving that you innocently acquired the property.

Note that if the property was a vehicle that had a partially or wholly tampered VIN, to use this defence you will also have to overcome the automatic presumption that you knew the vehicle was stolen. That is, in the Criminal Code there is a legal presumption that where the VIN to a vehicle has been altered in some way, it is automatically presumed to be proof that that you had the vehicle in your possession while knowing that it was obtained through the commission of a crime.

There is insufficient evidence for you to be found guilty of this crime beyond a reasonable doubt:

It is often the case that the Crown Prosecutor will attempt to prove that you are guilty of possession of stolen property using only circumstantial evidence. However, in order for you to be convicted of a crime on circumstantial evidence alone, the Crown will have a high burden to meet: they will have to prove that the only inference that can be drawn from the evidence presented at trial is that you are guilty of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt. As such, a skilled criminal defence lawyer can defend you by poking holes in the narrative presented by the Crown, and by excluding evidence from your trial through Charter motions and successful orders for exclusion.

That is, if one or more of the rights guaranteed to you under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was violated while the police were investigating you for the offence, you may have grounds to make a Charter motion and ask for the exclusion of some of the evidence gathered against you. Some examples of the rights that can be violated during the course of an investigation include your right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, your right to full disclosure, or your right to counsel. If some of the evidence that was gathered against you has a strong connection to the Charter violation, that evidence might be excluded from trial. As a result of the exclusion, there may be insufficient evidence to convict you beyond a reasonable doubt.

About The Author

Michael Oykhman

Managing Partner

Michael Oykhman is a senior lawyer and founder of Strategic Criminal Defence, a full-service criminal law firm with central law offices across Western Canada and Ontario.

My professional experience consists of countless court appearances and thousands of successful defences and satisfied clients. Over the last 10 years, I have worked to build a law office where all the lawyers share our collective experience, resources, and passion to help people. Our team approach to legal representation is client–rather than only law–centred. We look for opportunities to add value to our clients through strategic thinking and creative solutions.

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