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Possession of Stolen Goods – Defending the Accused

Many people realize that theft crimes are prosecuted relentlessly. What most people do not realize is that it is also considered to be a criminal offense to be in possession of a stolen item. According to §14-72 of the North Carolina general statute, it is considered a Class H felony to receive or possess stolen goods that are valued above $1,000. In addition, an individual may be charged with a possession of stolen goods crime if they knowingly possess stolen goods valued at less than $1,000, though the consequences of a sentencing may be less severe for this crime.

At Cummings & Kennedy, we recognize that you may not have known an item was stolen. Cases involving the possession of stolen goods can be complex – for example, your lawyer will have to determine whether you were subjected to an illegal search and seizure. If you were, the evidence that was acquired could be thrown out. The only way to know, however, is by working with an experienced advocate who knows what to look for and where to look. Our legal team specializes in theft crimes and criminal defense law.

If you’re curious about what we can do for your case, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’d be happy to provide you with a free initial consultation for your situation. You can also continue learning to find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions that we receive surrounding North Carolina’s possession of stolen goods laws.

What, exactly, does possessing stolen goods mean?

The possession of stolen goods can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances at hand. Under §14-72 of the North Carolina general statute, an individual will face a felony charge if they knowingly possess stolen goods valued at over $1,000. The statute specifically states that this is considered a Class H felony crime: “The receiving or possessing of stolen goods of the value of more than one thousand dollars ($1,000) while knowing or having reasonable grounds to believe that the goods are stolen is a Class H felony.”

In addition, an individual may face a misdemeanor. The state notes that misdemeanor possession of stolen goods crimes are defined thusly: “The receiving or possession of stolen goods knowing or having reasonable grounds to believe them to be stolen, where the value of the property or goods is not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), is a Class 1 misdemeanor.”

Possession of stolen good infractions may, once again, be considered felony crimes in some cases, even where the value of the item or items was less than $1,000. As §14-72 of the North Carolina general statute mentions, possession of stolen goods will automatically be considered a Class H felony crime regardless of the value of the goods when an individual possesses a stolen “explosive or incendiary device or substance,” or a firearm. In addition, individuals will face a felony charge if they possess stolen records or papers that belonged to the North Carolina State Archives. Finally, an individual will face a felony charge, regardless of the value of the item or items if, as §14-72 states:

“[The crime was] committed after the defendant has been convicted in this State or in another jurisdiction for any offense of larceny [...], or of any substantially similar offense in any other jurisdiction, regardless of whether the prior convictions were misdemeanors, felonies, or a combination thereof, at least four times. A conviction shall not be included in the four prior convictions required under this subdivision unless the defendant was represented by counsel or waived counsel at first appearance or otherwise prior to trial or plea. If a person is convicted of more than one offense of misdemeanor larceny in a single session of district court, or in a single week of superior court or of a court in another jurisdiction, only one of the convictions may be used as a prior conviction under this subdivision; except that convictions based upon offenses which occurred in separate counties shall each count as a separate prior conviction under this subdivision.”

In short, if you have been convicted of previous larceny or possession crimes, you may be facing a felony offense, even if the item or items possessed are valued at less than $1,000.


What is the difference between larceny and possession of stolen goods?

Larceny and possession of stolen goods are similar crimes as defined by the statutes enacted here in North Carolina. In fact, statute §14-72 outlines both infractions in the same statute, and the penalties for both infractions are similar. However, unlike larceny, possession of stolen goods does not imply that an individual actually stole the items his or herself. Instead, this crime only includes infractions where the item or items in question were simply in possession of an individual. Prosecutors do not have to prove that a robbery occurred in possession of stolen goods cases.

What if I didn’t know the item or items were stolen?

If you unknowingly purchased or possessed an item or items that were stolen, then you may not be guilty of a possession of stolen goods crime, under North Carolina law. Statute §14-72 states that an individual must be “knowing or having reasonable grounds to believe [the item or items] to be stolen” in order to be guilty of a possession of a stolen item crime. If you did not know that you possessed stolen property, yet you face a possession of stolen property accusation, then you may be able to make a case that you had no knowledge of the theft of this property.

What kind of penalties may I face if convicted of possession of stolen goods?

As we mentioned, you may face a felony charge or a misdemeanor charge, depending on the circumstances of your case and whether or not the property in possession was valued a less than or greater than $1,000. If you’re facing a felony conviction, the sentence applied will likely be that of a Class H felony, which may result in four to 25 months of prison time, as well as fines, and possible required classes and volunteer work.

If you are facing a misdemeanor offense here in North Carolina, it will likely be considered a Class I misdemeanor, which has sentencing of one to 120 days of incarceration or required volunteer work.In addition, you may face fines and may be required to attend certain classes.


When your future is on the line, you do not have the luxury of wasting your time. The criminal process moves fast – you need to be confident that you have an advocate on your side that will help you defend your rights. We know what is on the line when dealing with a criminal charge. You can trust that where other firms would be deterred, that we will simply buckle down to provide you with high-quality and aggressive assistance you deserve. If you’ve been accused of being in possession of stolen goods here in Carteret County, please do not hesitate to contact a Carteret County theft crime attorney from our legal team as soon as possible.