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Information on crimes that are commonly charged in Michigan. If you need legal assistance, please contact a lawyer.

 

Receiving or Concealing a Stolen Vehicle

Statute: MCL 750.5325(7)
Crime Group: Property
Sentence Class
: E
Minimum Sentence: 0 Months
Maximum Sentence1: 60 Months (120 Months with prior convictions)
Maximum Fine: $10,000.00 or 3x the value of the property whichever is greater
Jury Instructions: MCJI2d. 26.1, 26.2, 26.3
Sex Offender Registration Required: No

Statutory Language:

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(7) A person shall not buy, receive, possess, conceal, or aid in the concealment of a stolen motor vehicle knowing, or having reason to know or reason to believe, that the motor vehicle is stolen, embezzled, or converted. A person who violates this subsection is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 5 years or a fine of not more than $10,000.00 or 3 times the value of the motor vehicle purchased, received, possessed, or concealed, whichever is greater, or both imprisonment and a fine. A person who is charged with, convicted of, or punished for a violation of this subsection shall not be convicted of or punished for a violation of another provision of this section arising from the purchase, receipt, possession, concealment, or aiding in the concealment of the same motor vehicle. This subsection does not prohibit the person from being charged, convicted, or punished under any other applicable law.

(8) A person who violates subsection (7) and has 1 or more prior convictions for committing or attempting to commit an offense under this section, other than a violation of subsection (4)(b) or (5), is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 10 years or a fine of not more than $15,000.00 or 3 times the value of the vehicle purchased, received, possessed, or concealed, whichever is greater, or both imprisonment and a fine.

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Discussion:

In Michigan, a person who receives or conceals a stolen vehicle is as guilty of a crime as the person who actually stole the vehicle. While they are not necessarily guilty of the same crimes, a person who knows (or who has reason to know) a vehicle was stolen is not innocent and can face up to 5 years in jail. (In fact, the person who stole the vehicle may also be charged with this offense if he or she tried to hide the car.) However, the prosecution must prove all of the following elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt to convict a defendant of this crime:

  • the vehicle was stolen;
     
  • the defendant either bought, received, possessed, hid or aided in hiding the vehicle;
     
  • the defendant knew or had reason to know, or reason to believe, the vehicle was stolen; and
     
  • the property was a “motor vehicle”.
     

Michigan has gone to great lengths to define the terms used in the elements of this charge. For instance, the legislature has defined the term “buy” to mean “to purchase property, either with money or in exchange for something else of value”. To “receive” means to “knowingly accept possession of the property”. To “possess” means to “knowingly have or hold property under your control”. To “conceal” means to “intentionally hide, disguise, get rid of, or do any other act to keep the property from being discovered”.

Typically, the most difficult thing for the prosecution to establish is that the defendant knew or had reason to know the property was stolen. To establish this, the prosecution will ask the jury to consider the circumstances surrounding the taking of the property, the actions of the defendant, anything the defendant said about the property, the price the defendant paid for the property, the time between when the property was taken and the defendant discovered it was stolen, and any additional facts that tend to show the knowledge of the defendant. However, a jury can not infer a defendant knew or had reason to know the vehicle was stolen simply because (s)he possessed the vehicle. There must be other facts and circumstances shown by the evidence that would justify the belief, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant knew (or had reason to know) the property was stolen. Car dealers and pawn brokers are presumed to know that a vehicle was stolen if the VIN is altered or missing, but this presumption can be overcome under some circumstances.

Prosecutors will often allow a defendant to plead guilty to the lesser charge of “Attempt Receiving or Concealing a Stolen Vehicle”. This charge has a lower maximum sentence for a first time felon—2.5 years instead of 5 years—but it is still a felony. As such, those offers are not frequently worth taking. In a few cases, a prosecutor may allow a defendant to plea to a misdemeanor for receiving stolen property worth less than $1,000.00, but such a disposition is unusual, even when the vehicle in question is only worth a few hundred dollars.

In some cases, a defendant who is between the ages of 17 and 21 (or between 21 and 24 years of age with approval from the prosecutor) may be eligible for sentencing under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (“HYTA”, MCL 762.11). HYTA is a deferred sentencing program that recognizes that when people are young, they often make stupid mistakes that should not haunt them for the rest of their lives. If a defendant is sentenced under HYTA, the court allows the defendant to offer a guilty plea, but takes the plea “under advisement” without entering it as a conviction. The court will then place the defendant on probation for a term set by the court. A defendant who successfully completes the probation will have all charges dropped and no public record of the offense will remain. However, a defendant who does not successfully complete the HYTA probation will have his/her probation revoked, the conviction will be entered, and a new (usually harsher) sentence will be imposed without a trial. HYTA status may be granted by a judge as many times as the judge wants; there is no “one per lifetime” limitation (although many judges do have a “one HYTA” policy).

A defendant convicted under this statute will typically be sentenced according to the Michigan sentencing guidelines. Because these guidelines consider both the nature of the current crime and the past record of the defendant—and because the guidelines are “advisory only” and judges are not required to follow them—it is impossible to predict a likely sentence without taking a look at the specific facts of a defendant’s case and reviewing the past record of a defendant, and even then such predictions are an “educated guess” at best.
 

1Maximum sentence shown is for a first-time felony offender. Prior felonies make a defendant liable for “Habitual Offender” (“HO”) sentencing enhancement. Thus, for a defendant with one prior felony or attempted felony (“HO2”), the maximum sentence raises to 90 months (7.5 years); for a defendant with two prior felonies or attempted felonies (“HO3”), the maximum sentence raises to 120 months (10 years); and a defendant with three or more prior felonies or attempted felonies (“HO4”) faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. Note also that a person previously convicted of Receiving or Concealing Stolen Property (including a motor vehicle) may face an enhanced penalty of up to 10 years in prison and the fine is raised to $15,000.00 or three times the value of the vehicle.
 

 

 

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