WillI get in trouble for having stolen property at my home if didn’t know that it was stolen?

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WillI get in trouble for having stolen property at my home if didn’t know that it was stolen?

A friend came to my house around 1:00 am with a car and asked if he could work on it in my shop. I said OK and that I was going to bed and would see him in the morning. When I got up the next morning and he was gone and the car was chopped up. I didn’t know that it was stolen. The cop have come to my house looking for the friend and the car. I didn’t want to go to jail; I have 2 kids and a wife. I want to do what is right; please help me. Will going to the cops and telling them the truth be a bad idea? Should I speak with a criminal law attorney? In Lewis County, WA.

Asked on February 16, 2011 under Criminal Law, Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Definitely speak with a criminal defense attorney about the best way to handle this, and don't speak to the authorities (or anyone!) about this matter until you speak with a lawyer--that is, exercise your right against self-incrimination, a/k/a right to remain silent.

As a general matter, to be guilty of a crime requires in almost all circumstances a criminal intent, or mens rea. That means that in theory, if you did not know that a car was stolen, you cannot be charged with a crime. However, sometimes it's enough that a reasonable person would have known that a crime was being committed and that the only reason you didn't "know" was that you turned a willfully blind eye. In this case, it is highly suspicious that a friend would suddenly need to work on his car at 1 a.m . in the morning; the facdt that you let him in and then turned in could be taken to mean you knew or suspected it was stolen and let him use your shop to chop it while hoping to give yourself plausible deniability.

You need experienced counsel to evaluate your situation and advise you based on its unique facts.


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