Can u legally be charged with receiving stolen property from a Goodwill purchase?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can u legally be charged with receiving stolen property from a Goodwill purchase?

My boyfriend and I was at our local
Goodwill outlet where we shop
frequently. During our shopping he
picked up a cell phone from one of the
bins placed in his bags and when done
shopping we payed for our stuff as the
store was closing a couple hours later
upon going through our bag I come across
the cell phone which also contained a
woman’s ID I then told him we have
someone phone we needed to take it to
Goodwill next day not even 10 min later
we was pulled over an office preformed a
search that we consented to and almost
immediately ask what the deal with the
cell phone I explained and he took it
with him when leaving the stop . He
charged my boyfriend with receiving
stolen property even tho he clearly seen
our reciept and other items purchased he
put in his report my boyfriend stated he
got it off the floor even tho he did not
and is being held on 20,000 cash bail
with 2 months til he even has a prelimin
how is this even possible???

Asked on February 7, 2018 under Criminal Law, Pennsylvania


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Did you pay Goodwill for the phone--that is, did they think it was their merchandise and sell it to you? That's the first question. The second is, does Goodwill normally sell cellphones?
If Goodwill normally sells cellphones and you paid for it, he did nothing wrong and should have a good defense: he paid money to buy something from someone who normally sells that merchandise--there would be no reason to think the phone was stolen or belonged to anyone else.
If Goodwill does not normally sell cellphones, however, then the situation is different: it would look like he bought a stolen item from this location, as if this store (or an employee at it) is fencing or selling stolen goods in addition to its legitimate products. When you go to a pizza place, for example, you go to buy pizza; if they offer to sell you a cellphone--especially one out of the original packaging--there's reason to think it's a side criminal deal. The same principal applies here.
If he does not have a receipt for the phone specifically, it is worse: that it looks like they did not document this sale because it was a stolen item.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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