Brief Fact Summary.
Stanford stole a coat, and tried to sell it to Defendant. Before Stanford could sell it to Defendant, he was arrested. As part of an agreement with the police, Stanford tried to go through with the sale without telling Defendant about his arrest. Once Defendant bought the stolen coat, he was arrested by the police and charged with receipt of stolen property.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
Once the original owner or the police have recovered stolen goods, they are no longer considered stolen; hence, a defendant cannot be found guilty of receipt or stolen goods or attempted receipt of stolen goods.
The Government conceded and the Court agreed that it is a legal principle of long standing that when stolen goods are recovered by the owner or his agent before they are sold, the goods are no longer to be considered stolen, and the purchaser cannot be convicted of receiving stolen goods.View Full Point of Law
After Charley Stanford stole a topcoat from a car, he called John Fletcher Booth (Defendant) to try to sell it to Defendant for $20. Stanford and Defendant set up a meeting, but Stanford was arrested before their meeting once he was spotted with the coat. As part of an agreement with the police, Stanford did not tell Defendant about his arrest and met with him as planned. The police made this agreement with Stanford in order to apprehend Defendant. When Defendant came over to Stanford’s house, the police were hiding in the closet. Stanford told Defendant that the coat was stolen, and Defendant said that it was fine and bought it. The police subsequently arrested Defendant and charged him with receipt of stolen property. Defendant was later found not guilty for receipt of stolen property because when the police recovered the coat, it was no longer considered stolen. As such, when the coat was brought to Defendant with the intent of entrapping him, Defendant cannot be found guilty of receipt of stolen goods. However, the court found Defendant guilty of attempted receipt of stolen property, which Defendant appealed.
Once the police have recovered stolen goods, can a defendant be found guilty of attempted receipt of stolen goods?
No. Once the police have recovered stolen goods, a defendant can no longer be found guilty for attempted receipt of stolen goods, as they are no longer considered stolen. The crime would be considered a legal impossibility. Because the coat was not considered stolen once the police recovered it from Stanford, they cannot convict Defendant for receipt of stolen goods or attempted receipt of stolen goods. Therefore, Defendant’s conviction is reversed.
Here, if what Defendant attempted to do would not be considered a crime if he actually did it, then he cannot be held guilty of attempting to commit it. It is legally impossible. Despite the fact that Defendant had intent to commit the crime of receipt of stolen goods, the good were not considered stolen anymore. Defendant may not be punished for intent alone.