Receiving stolen property is one of the more elusive offenses on the Chicago statute books but it has been prosecuted vigorously on account of the fact that it is part of a network of criminality that must be broken from its source. The person that receives stolen property is not only benefitting from a crime but is also making it difficult for the law enforcement authorities to successfully recover the stolen property. Therefore, the criminal justice system has been harsh on defendants in these circumstances. Defense attorneys need to be wary of the prejudices that often plague these cases. The chain of custody before arriving at the final recipient can also cause unique challenges for the defense attorney.
Key Considerations as Part of the Defense Preparations
The strategy that is preferred is to focus on the other defendants so as to take the heat off the person who may not have done the robbery or theft but is indeed the final recipient of the goods or money. The problems start to mount when it is a joint enterprise or conspiracy. In such situations the defendant may have to fight off a presumption that he or she is the mastermind whereas the actual thieves are only footmen and women for the grand scheme. Needless to say defendants who the prosecution successfully labels as being criminal masterminds can expect unusually stiff penalties, even when the discretions of the sentencing guidelines are taken into consideration. Luckily for the vast majority of defense attorneys, the cases are usually on the low end. The person that engaged in the actual stealing action (particularly if it is upgraded to robbery) will bear the brunt of the court’s wrath.
The public is particularly concerned about violent crimes so robbery ranks right up there. However, Chicago has upgraded the seriousness of burglaries in a domestic dwelling particularly when there are people present. The ingredient that aggravates the crime is the invasion of privacy and property rights. A person’s home is his or her castle, according to the law in Chicago. The defendants for those who have received stolen goods may choose to focus on emphasizing the culpability of the actors whilst minimizing the role of the defendant in their care. On the downside the other side may try to do the exact opposite. The prosecutor likes nothing more than being able to turn joint defendants against one another. It is the classic Catch 22, which means that all of them end up being convicted.
The Seriousness of the Crime
Most cases have not been elevated beyond a misdemeanor so the concern for the defense is to reduce the seriousness of the criminal record of the defendant. However a few constituent ingredients must be met before a conviction is secured. Typically, the defense attorney will do his or her best to ensure that at least one of these elements is not satisfactorily proved in doubt.
- The crime must be committed knowingly
- The defendant must have taken possession of the item or items in question
- The defendant must be aware that the item was stolen
- The defendant should have been reasonably expected to know that the item was stolen
- Intends to deprive the owner of the property permanently
- Knowingly disposes or conceals that property so that the owner is unable to use it
Some of the clauses can capture pawn brokers who do not exercise due diligence. The issue of constructive knowledge has been argued vigorously by defense attorneys as a way of getting out of criminal culpability for their clients. However there is also a duty to undertake proper inquiries.
(image courtesy of Rcycle-rama)