Reasonable inquiry and purchasing private property

They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and the preponderance of swap meets and garage sales certainly proves this is true. Many people love spending their time looking for bargains or rare finds and collectibles. And there can be a tidy profit to be made by running a business that involves reselling items that people will part with for a few dollars.


If you own a pawnshop or are in some other business that involves reselling items that you buy from the members of the public, you are likely constantly on the lookout for things that you can purchase and then quickly resell. But you should always shy away from purchasing goods that you suspect were previously stolen.

In California, you can be subject to imprisonment for receiving or purchasing property that was stolen or otherwise acquired by illegal means. And in the case of property that has a value in excess of $950, you are required to make a “reasonable inquiry” to make sure that the person from whom you received the property was legally entitled to deliver or sell it to you.

So, let’s say that you are arrested for receiving stolen property, your best defense is proving that you made a reasonable inquiry to determine if the seller had a legal right to impart the property to you. Therefore, one of your biggest challenges is meeting the threshold regarding making a reasonable inquiry. Unfortunately, the statute covering your circumstances, California Penal Code Section 496, does not specify a method for doing this.

So, if you have been charged with having received stolen property, you may want to have a criminal defense attorney help you build a defense. The attorney can work on your behalf to establish that you took the proper steps when taking possession of the property in question.


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