In the last couple of months, I have been court appointed to a series of cases for one individual in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.  Most of the cases involve some kind of auto theft.  So, I am seeing a lot of charges for Robbery, Theft, and Receiving Stolen Property.  We were at a Preliminary Hearing last week when a small argument between myself and arresting officer broke out.  The gist of the argument was whether my client could be charged with Receiving Stolen Property because my client was suspected to be in the stolen vehicle.  Here are the basic facts reported in the Police Complaint:

A friend of my client’s steals a car, drives across town, and picks up my client.  They take care of some business and my client is dropped off.  The person who stole the car is arrested and states that my client was in the car.  My client admits to being in the car.  However, there are no fingerprints of my client’s found in the car.  My client gets charged with Receiving Stolen Property.

Under the Pennsylvania Criminal Code, Receiving Stolen Property requires someone receive, retain, or dispose of movable property of another knowing, or believing, that the property has been stolen.  Basically, the District Attorney has to be able to prove that my client possessed the car and knew, or believed, that the car was stolen.  These requirements raise serious issues with the criminal charges against my client under these facts.

My defense began with the simple argument that my client cannot be guilty of either Theft or Receiving Stolen Property because he was simply along for the ride, had no control over the car, and had no reason to know it was stolen.  Then, the officer admitted to me that he charged my client only because my client was riding in the car.  For me, this was case closed.  However, the police officer was not ready to let his case go that easily.  Big surprise.

The small argument began between myself and the officer as to whether someone is guilty of Receiving Stolen Property simply because he/she is riding in a stolen vehicle.  Unfortunately, I never had got my chance to argue my point to the Judge.  The District Attorney agreed with me and dismissed the case.

So, do you think riding in a car is the same as possessing, retaining, or controlling a car?

If you have been charged with Receiving Stolen Property or Theft, you have a right to fight the charges against you.  You may not have a case that is as clear cut as this one, but there are always arguments to be made.  Do not hesitate to contact my office for a consultation on your charges.  Call me directly at 412-209-0657.