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Have you been accused of possession of stolen property and you don’t really understand what this means? Here is an overview that, while non-exhaustive, will help you gain a better understanding of this offence.

Defining and contextualizing the possession of stolen property

To begin, possession of stolen property is the possession of property that is obtained by the commission of a criminal act. The accused must be in possession of the property and have knowledge of its illicit origin.

Clarifying “possession” of the illicit property

In terms of possession, it should be noted that this does not necessarily mean that you must have it physically in your hands. Rather, the Criminal Code states that when an individual has knowledge of the nature of the property and exercises some control over it, he or she is in possession of it. It is also possible to possess property jointly with another individual. In addition, assisting another person to hide property that is derived from a criminal offence is also possession of stolen property under the Code.

Demonstrating knowledge of the stolen property’s origin

In terms of the element of knowledge of the property’s origin, this can be demonstrated in several ways, including through wilful blindness. This means that the accused who states that he or she was unaware of the property’s origin could still be found guilty when he or she should have known that the property’s origin was unlawful.

Moreover, the property in the accused’s possession must come from the commission of an offence. This offence will often be associated with theft when, following the commission of this offence, the individual is in possession of the stolen property. The property can therefore be the stolen good, but also the money obtained as a result of its sale.

The prosecution and possession of stolen property charges

It is important to understand that a person convicted of property theft cannot be found guilty of possession of the property at the end of the judicial process if the possession is contemporary to the theft, that is, if it is the same offence. In doing so, the individual would be convicted twice for the same crime, which is not possible under Canadian criminal law.

The onus will be on the Crown to prove that the property in an individual’s possession is derived from an offence. The fact that the individual is found guilty of theft is evidence that the property came from the theft.

If the accused is found with the property in his or her possession shortly after the crime, it will be assumed that the accused is aware of the property’s illicit origin. The judge will be able to deduce guilt for the theft, as well as for any crime related to the theft when the accused is found in recent possession of stolen property. The accused may reject this deduction by giving an explanation that could be true.

For more information on possession of stolen property charges

As you can see, the offence that qualifies as possession of stolen property is similar to theft in several respects. Moreover, the penalties are the same for both crimes. In both cases, the accused is liable to ten years’ imprisonment where the value is more than $5,000. Nevertheless, there are distinctions between the two that may not be obvious to understand. Do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions!