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Frequently Asked Questions

The law pertaining to possession of property obtained by crime involves an individuals who are in possession of any item or asset, and they are aware that the items were acquired directly or indirectly through a criminal offence punishable by indictment. The main objective of this law is to prevent individuals from profiting from criminal activities, and thereby dismantling the market for stolen items. You will often seen the crime of possession of property obtained by crime in conjunction with other crimes such as robbery, fraud, burglary, and drug trafficking.

What is Possession of Property Obtained by Crime?

Under Canadian law, specifically Section 354 of the Criminal Code, possession of property obtained by crime refers to exerting a level of control over property that the accused knows, or ought to have known, was acquired through criminal activity. Direct knowledge might include something like the defendant had stolen the vehicle themselves and kept it in their driveway. Indirect knowledge might be someone buying a car from a friend who they know is known for selling stolen cars. Each case has its unique circumstances and so it is important to consult a lawyer if being charged with this offence.

The offence of possession of property obtained by crime encompasses both tangible items, such as stolen goods, and intangible assets, such as funds gained from illegal activities. Examples of property obtained by crime can include items stolen from individuals or businesses and the proceeds generated from illegal means, such as the trafficking of illicit drugs.

How does the Crown Prove Possession of Property Obtained by Crime?

To prove this offence, the Crown must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused had control over the property and was aware that it was obtained through criminal means. Evidence can include the circumstances of the possession, the accused’s conduct, and any statements made by the accused regarding the property’s origin.

How to Fight a Possession of Property Obtained by Crime Charge

For somebody to defend themselves against this specific offence, they might argue that they did not have the requisite knowledge that the property was obtained through criminal activities. Another strategy they might adopt is to show that the possession of stolen goods was due to a misunderstanding or mistake. Some other legal defences that might be used would be to point to the accused’s actual level of control (or the lack thereof) over the property. Another defence might be for the defendant’s lawyer to argue that the manner in which the police gathered the evidence of this crime was unconstitutional, or otherwise unfair.

An important component of this criminal offence is that the accused actually has to know that the property or thing that they possess was stolen.

If a person stole a car and you bought that car even after knowing that it was stolen, you could possibly be charged with this offence. For the Crown to determine if there is a reasonable probability that you knew the item was stolen when you bought it from a third party, they might look at circumstantial evidence such as the nature of your relationship with the seller who committed a crime to obtain the property or item in question. They might look at the number of times that you and the seller communicated back and forth leading up to the purchase of the property.

On the other hand, passive acquiescence may not be enough to constitute this criminal offence. In this context, it is not typical for people to be punished simply by the company that they keep. This means that if you are there when the crime is committed and do not actively aid or abet the perpetrator, this makes it more difficult to prove that you have the requisite criminal intent for possession of property obtained by crime.

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What is the Penalty for Possession of Property Obtained by Crime?

The penalty for possession of property obtained by crime can vary widely. It could range from fines to imprisonment, contingent on the value of the property and the circumstances of the case. For high-value property or if the possession is associated with organized crime, the penalties are generally more serious. As such, it is important to obtain legal counsel to ensure that your rights are protected and to ensure that you get the most favourable legal outcomes.

Possession of property obtained by crime charges are categorized based on the value of the items. Where an individual is convicted of possession of property obtained by crime and the value of the items exceeds $5,000, the offender will face up to ten years in prison where the Crown proceeds by indictment, and a maximum of two years less a day imprisonment and/or up to a $5,000 fine where the Crown proceeds summarily.

Where the value of the items in the offender’s possession was under $5,000, they will face a maximum of two years in prison where the Crown proceeds by indictment, and a maximum of two years less a day imprisonment and/or up to a $5,000 fine where the Crown proceeds summarily.

What’s a Crime in Canada?

If I Return the Property, Will the Crown Drop the Charges?

Returning the property does not automatically result in charges being dropped; however, in some cases, it might be used as a mitigating factor on sentencing and when determining moral culpability. It is important to note that even though returning the goods might be used as part of a plea negotiation and to demonstrate the accused’s remorse, the choice is ultimately up to the Crown as to whether they want to drop the charges or not. In making this decision, the Crown will consider factors such as the evidence of intent and knowledge at the time of possession. Typically, the Crown would not agree to drop charges simply because an accused returned property. Returning the property does not negate the fact that the accused committed a criminal offence by possessing the stolen property.

Possession of property obtained by crime is serious offence in Canada, reflecting how seriously Canada is about maintaining public trust in financial and property transactions, as well as personal property. These laws are intended to deter individuals from engaging in and benefiting from fraudulent activities. Given the complex nature of these kinds of crimes, and the possible ramifications if being charged with possession of property obtained by crime, it is highly advisable for individuals charged with these crimes to seek an experienced lawyer.

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Recent Cases

R. v. K.C., 2021 ONCA 188

This case was about the possession of property obtained by crime, specifically a $12.5 million lottery ticket that members of the defendant’s family, who operated a convenience store in Ontario, allegedly stole from a customer. The ruse involved defendant K.C. retaining one of two free-play tickets awarded to a customer, with one ticket eventually winning the lottery. One of the members of defendant’s family later cashed in on ticket, fraudulently presenting themselves as the rightful owner to the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) and deliberately providing false information about where they got the ticket from.

The legal fallout included multiple charges against the family members, particularly for possessing the physical ticket and the monetary proceeds from its claim. The defendants were convicted of possessing the stolen ticket and the fraudulently obtained prize money.

This case shows us the serious legal ramifications for possessing property obtained through criminal activities and enterprises, emphasizing the stringent scrutiny that such cases undergo, especially when it involves large sums of money. The family’s appeals introduced constitutional questions concerning the penalties linked to these crimes, though their challenges to these aspects were ultimately rejected by the Court.

R. v. G.T., 2019 ONCA 650

Here, the owner of a car business was charged with possession of property obtained by crime amongst other crimes related to fraud. More namely, the accused G. T. was suspected of being in possession of stolen cars and car parts, which was uncovered in a police investigation. The business operated as a salvage yard, repair shop, and car parts seller in the Niagara Region, with two other locations that contained additional inventory for this “business”

The judge-only trial focused on whether G.T. was aware of the fact that the vehicles and vehicle parts the constituted the matter of said charges were indeed stolen. This formed the basis of the 44 charges of possession of stolen property. The defence asserted that G.T. was not aware of the stolen status of these items, implying that a deceitful former business associate was liable for this.

During the trial, a significant legal issue was the trial judge’s decision to admit and utilize evidence from different counts as similar fact evidence to establish a pattern of knowledge that G.T. was in possession of stolen property. The judge asserted that the sheer volume of cases where G. T. had possessed stolen items in the past made it more likely that G.T. knew of their illicit origins. This case shows us here that in determining a defendant’s state of mind, or ‘mens rea’, in exceptional cases the Crown might use the defendant’s past behaviour and similar crimes to prove that they indeed had a guilty state of mind.

R. v. A.F., 2022 ONSC 3794

In this case, the defendant A. F. faced charges for defrauding Canada Post Corporation and possession of property obtained by crime, as outlined by sections 380(1)(a) and 354(1)(a) of the Criminal Code. As the trial unfolded, there was ample evidence that revealed A.F.’s involvement in a sophisticated fraud scheme targeting Canada Post over a three-year period.

The main point of the Crown’s argument was based on A.F.’s establishment of several Canada Post accounts that were used only to purchase a large number of stamps on credit card. Canada Post credit account analysts came to testify, pointing out the suspicious patterns observed in these new accounts, which repetitively ordered quantities of stamps much higher than what a business would typically need, and subsequently defaulted on their payments. This erratic behaviour sparked an investigation that uncovered about 50 accounts engaged in similar fraudulent activities.

A postal inspector’s testimony was key in linking these suspicious activities back to A.F., discovering that the stamps were sent to a business centre where A.F. had leased a mailbox. In addition, there were also some audio recordings and video footage that reinforced how A. F. was linked to the fraudulent activities.

Testimonies from business owners who bought stamps from A.F. at reduced prices suggested these were the same stamps procured through his fradulent transactions with Canada Post. The judge considered the testimony from Canada Post personnel, investigative findings by the postal inspector, and evidence from businesses that dealt with A.F. Despite A.F.’s decision to not present a defence. All of these pieces of evidence together painted a persuasive picture of the defendant’s systematic fraud against Canada Post. The Court ultimately held that A.F. intentionally participated in fraudulent schemes to acquire and subsequently sell stamps, fully aware of the fact that the stamps were obtained through illicit means, thereby constituting the offence of possession of property obtained by crime.

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About the Author

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Jordan Donich

Jordan Donich has been a Lawyer for over 10 years and is a trusted legal analyst by Canadian Media. He is as a leader in Canada’s tech sector for lawyers and developer of Law Newbie. Jordan is a Black Belt with the Japan Karate Association and trained in Krav Maga. He won a Gold Medal at 2004 Canadian National Championships and was published in the National Newspaper Awards.

Jordan has been featured in Forbes and is a member of DMZ Angels in Toronto.