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Could secondhand online purchases lead to theft-related charges?

People buy items secondhand for all kinds of reasons. Frugality is a common reason, as everything from a motor vehicle to a designer handbag will carry a significantly lower price tag once someone has used the item, however briefly.

For other people, buying second-hand is a way to mitigate the environmental impact of their purchasing choices. Instead of buying a new product that requires manufacturing and energy input, they may decide they want to purchase a used item. For some people, purchasing used is the only option if they want a specific limited edition item or piece of memorabilia.

Reselling can benefit those who steal

Online platforms, including Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist, make it easy for people to sell used items in a nearly anonymous way. Unfortunately, in some cases, the goods they sell to others might actually belong to someone else.

Reselling stolen items is a way for someone to profit off of their theft while reducing their risk of charges related to the possession of stolen goods. Could you as the purchaser face criminal charges if you buy something that someone else stole?

Colorado law prohibits knowingly purchasing or possessing stolen goods

The law regarding the possession of stolen property in Colorado is relatively straightforward. Anyone who knowingly does so opens themselves up to criminal consequences identical to the penalties that the thief themselves would incur.

The value of the item in question will directly influence the penalties or charges someone faces. In order for the prosecutor to successfully convict someone of this offense, they need evidence that the person in possession of those items knew they were stolen.

People who unintentionally buy stolen goods don’t commit a crime

Buying a second-hand iPhone can be a great option if you crack your screen and don’t have the money to buy a brand new device. If, after you activate the phone, the previous owner attempts to get their phone back, you could potentially lose out on the money that you spent purchasing the device.

However, so long as you were not explicitly aware of its status as a stolen item, you likely won’t have to worry about criminal charges. Cooperating with law enforcement by providing information related to the purchase could further help to dispel any questions about whether or not your ownership of a second-hand item is a criminal act.

For those who do get charged with possession of a stolen item, demonstrating a lack of knowledge or intent could play a role in their criminal defense strategy.