What is possession of stolen property?

By Last Updated: July 26, 2022

What is possession of stolen property?In Canada it is a criminal offence to possess property that was stolen or otherwise obtained by crime.

In order for you to be convicted of possession of stolen property, the Crown Prosecutor will need to prove:

  1. That you were in possession of property;
  2. That the property you possessed was obtained through crime;
  3. That you knew that you were in possession of the property; and,
  4. That you knew that the property was obtained by crime.

For you to be found guilty of possession of stolen property, you do not actually need to be the one that stole the property, nor do you need to have it in your immediate possession in order to be found guilty of this crime. In Canadian law, you will be deemed to be in possession of something whenever it can be shown that you had knowledge and control over the item. For example, you can possess stolen property when you knowingly placed it in a location that was not in your immediate vicinity, but where you could still access it and have control over it. This would be the case if you kept the property somewhere that wasn’t within your immediate reach, but where you could still control the movement of the property. Alternatively, you could be deemed to be in possession of the item when you put it in the custody of another person, but retained control over what happened to that item in the long run. So long as you are able to exercise control over the property for your own benefit or the benefit of another person, in law you will be considered to be in possession of that property. You can also be found guilty of possession of stolen property if someone else stole property or obtained property through crime and you voluntarily held it for them.

While many people think they cannot be found guilty of possession of stolen property because they will just insist they did not ‘know’ they had the property, or they did not ‘know’ it was stolen, this is often not the case. In law, the concept of wilful blindness ensures that you cannot escape criminal liability for possession of stolen property by claiming that you did not know that you were committing the offence when it is fairly obvious that you knew, or that you ought to have known that you were in possession of the property.

Specifically, the court can find that you were wilfully blind to the fact that you were in possession of stolen property if the circumstances were such that you should have had reason to suspect that the property was stolen, but yet you failed to make further inquires as to where the property came from. In such a case, your wilful blindness can substitute as knowledge for the crime, and you can still be found guilty of possession of stolen property even though you allegedly did not ‘know’ that you were in possession of the item.

The Penalty For Possession Of Stolen Property In Canada:

The punishment you will face if you are convicted of possession of stolen property will depend on a number of factors, the most significant of which is whether you have been convicted of stolen property over $5000.00 or possession of stolen property under $5000.00.

If you are convicted of possession of stolen property under $5000.00, you will be guilty of a hybrid offence punishable by up to 2 years in prison if the Crown Prosecutor proceeds by way of indictment. If the Crown chooses to proceed by summary conviction, you can still be liable for up to 6 months spent in jail following a conviction. If you are convicted of possession of stolen property over $5000.00, you will be found guilty of an indictable offence, and will be facing a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.

If you used violence or weapons in the course of the offence, you may also be subject to ancillary orders such as a weapons or firearms prohibition. Such orders will prohibit you from possessing weapons or firearms for a period of time set by the court. If you receive an ancillary order and then violate the terms of that order, it is important to know that you can be charged and found guilty of another criminal offence.

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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