Possession of Stolen Property
Closely related to theft, possession of stolen property is an offence punishable by indictment, if the value of the property is over $5000, for up to two years imprisonment. Where the value is under $5000, the offence is punishable on summary conviction for up to six months in jail. Section 354 of the Criminal Code sets out that it is an offence to possess property “knowing that the property was obtained or derived directly or indirectly by the commission of an offence.” Thus, it is illegal to possess property that has been stolen or obtained fraudulently. It is an essential element of the offence that the Crown proves, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the accused knew that the property was derived from an offence and that the accused exercised control over the property.
Actual theft or fraud is not an essential element of this offence. Rather, the Crown need only prove that the property belonged to someone other than the accused and that the accused had knowledge that the property he possessed was, in fact, obtained through the commission of an offence. The investigating officer will certainly take statements from the property’s true owner and any witnesses who observed the accused in possession of the property. Knowledge that the property was obtained through an offence may be inferred, such as where the suspect is driving a vehicle with a broken door lock and a “punched” ignition. Additionally, police will also very likely seek to obtain an explanation from their suspect in an effort to get the suspect to admit that they knew the property was obtained illegally. This is where we as experienced defence lawyers can help by providing advice to our clients regarding their rights under the Charter, including their right to remain silent.