Posted on 11/7/16
Two thieves break into a Radio Shack late at night. They used sophisticated equipment to disarm the alarm. After a number of hours, they are inside. Once there, they put many electronic items in boxes. After a few minutes of rummaging through the store, they leave and take the merchandise with them. Later, they take the merchandise to various vendors, including pawn shops owners and flea market sellers. In turn, the pawn shop owner and flea market seller sells the stolen merchandise at a discount rate.

A similar scenario can happen at an independent electronics or other store where burglars seize merchandise and sell it to pawn shop owners and the like. While the average flea market shopper will likely be protected from criminal prosecution, the same cannot be said for pawn shop owners and flea market vendors.

Texas Requirements for Sellers of Secondhand Merchandise

The Texas Penal Code provides that:

“An actor engaged in the business of buying and selling used or secondhand personal property, or lending money on the security of personal property deposited with the actor, is presumed to know upon receipt by the actor of stolen property (other than a motor vehicle subject to Chapter 501, Transportation Code) that the property has been previously stolen from another if the actor pays for or loans against the property $25 or more (or consideration of equivalent value) and the actor knowingly or recklessly:

  • Fails to record the name, address, and physical description or identification number of the seller or pledgor;
  • Fails to record a complete description of the property, including the serial number, if reasonably available, or other identifying characteristics;  or
  • Fails to obtain a signed warranty from the seller or pledgor that the seller or pledgor has the right to possess the property. It is the express intent of this provision that the presumption arises unless the actor complies with each of the numbered requirements”

In other words, Texas law requires buyers engaged in the selling of secondhand property to obtain a seller’s name, address, physical description, and a signed warranty that the person selling them this merchandise has the right to do so. This law targets flea market vendors and pawn shop owners. If they do not obtain this information and the merchandise was stolen, it is presumed that the flea shop vendor knew that the property was stolen. Because the presumption is that the vendor knew that the merchandise was stolen, he would face criminal charges for knowingly selling stolen goods.

Note that a buyer of such merchandise would not face criminal charges if there is no knowledge that the merchandise was stolen. However, if a buyer purchased the item and finds out that the merchandise was stolen the buyer would be required to return the merchandise to the lawful owner.

If you are facing charges for stolen goods, know that you have rights. You need to find a lawyer who will zealously advocate on your behalf. Contact the law firm of Christopher Abel, a certified Texas criminal defense attorney.


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