According to the Criminal Code, possession of property obtained by crime occurs when a person possesses property or proceeds of property that the possessor knew was obtained directly or indirectly from the commission of an indictable offence. This is serious offence and can be charged alone or along with the other crimes such as fraud or theft.
While we commonly refer to this offence as possession of stolen property, the offence is not limited to property acquired through theft. Property received as a result of any indictable offence in Canada or similar action taken outside of Canada that would be an indictable offence can be the basis for this charge.
If you are unaware that an item is stolen, purchasing or possessing the item is not illegal. Although you may have to return it to the true owner, you are not guilty of possessing stolen property. This does not mean that you can just ignore suspicious situations or state that you do not want to know where the item came from. The Crown can make a case that based on the circumstances, you must have known that the property was stolen. Proving that you had no knowledge of the history of the property is a complicated matter and you should speak with a lawyer for advice on how to proceed with this defence.
Stolen property includes not only actual stolen items, but also indirect benefits gained from stolen items. For example, accepting money, knowing that it came from the sale of a stolen vehicle would qualify as possession of stolen property even though the money itself was note stolen.Another example of an indirect benefit of stolen property is having items that you know were purchased with a stolen or fraudulently obtained credit card.
The possible sentences for a conviction of possession of property obtained by crime will depend on the value of the property at issue. If the basis for the offence is property worth more than $5,000, punishment can be up to ten years imprisonment. If the property in question is worth less than $5,000, the maximum sentence is two years.
Since the possession of stolen property charge requires finding the property, there is usually a search of the person, home or other belongings of the accused. When the police conduct a search, a good defence will always consider including arguments that that the search was in violation of the Charter rights.