How long until you're no longer receiving stolen property?

AIUI, anyone who buys something that was stolen is guilty of receiving stolen property whether they knew it was stolen or not. I’m guessing anyone they sold it to would be similarly guilty. And the third in the chain. And the fourth. And the fifth. And the sixth. And so on, indefinitely. Or am I wrong here? Is there a statutory limit to how many links in the chain can be prosecuted? Is it all down to prosecutorial discretion?

Does it matter if it was sold after the statue of limitations on the original theft had ran out?

IANAL etc…

But until Bricker comes along.

Prosecution for buying and selling stolen property hinges on the prosecutor being able to prove that buyer/seller knew the object was stolen.

Buying or selling in good faith is a positive defense against prosecution.

If it is later discovered said item is stolen, it will still be confiscated and eventually returned to the original owner. The buyer eating the loss unless he goes back to the seller.

Unsure about how things shake out if the seller themselves later discovers their purchase was purloined and chose to remain quiet about it.

This is a SWAG, but say I offer you a 50" HDTV in the box for $200. You might think it’s too good a deal to not be stolen. But on the other hand I have it out of the box and tell you that my family bought it and then we decided we need a 60" and you can have it for $1200, you might think it’s a reasonable deal and not be suspicious.

In the first case the prosecutor might have a good argument that “you had to know it was stolen”, in the second case, maybe not so much.

Usual disclaimers about not being your lawyer, this not being legal advice, and your jurisdiction may differ.

The premise in your OP is wrong. Generally speaking, it is not the law that you are guilty of receiving even if you did not know the item was stolen. The prosecution has to establish that you knew it was stolen (or otherwise illegally obtained). Again in general terms, knowledge equates with belief in this area, so there is no room for epistemological quibbles about the nature of “knowledge”. The prosecution has to do more than merely point to grounds for suspicion, however. The grounds must be so compelling as to lead to the conclusion of belief on the part of the suspect.

In many countries (not sure about US) there is a rule of evidence called the “recent possession” rule, which means that if you are caught in possession of an item proved to have been stolen recently, and you don’t account for your possession of it, it is open for the jury to conclude that you either stole it or received it knowing it to have been stolen. This is really not much more than a rule relating to a particular piece of circumstantial evidence (being caught red-handed can be pretty good circumstantial evidence even outside of receiving cases).

Generally, the circumstances in which the suspect acquired the property are examined. As observed above, if you claim you bought a brand new big screen plasma at a pub from a guy who sold it to you from the back of his van in the carpark for $200 cash, no receipt, no warranty, and you can’t remember his name, then all your protestations of innocence and naivete aren’t likely to trouble a jury tasked with the question of determining whether you believed it was stolen.

And if you don’t explain how you got it, the recent possession rule kicks in. “Turning a blind eye” to information that would indicate the truth is also often compelling evidence that the suspect believed the item stolen as well.

On the other hand, if you bought the item in an eBay auction, (and can show the paper and electronic trail) then your claim that you did not know the item was stolen is likely to be accepted. Unless it is an original Matisse, the Crown jewels, etc.

I bought a fairly new chainsaw from the brother of an aquaintance. He told me he traded a car for it, I had no reason to not believe him. A few weeks later I was contacted by a sheriff and asked about the chainsaw. I was told it was stolen and that the brother was a suspected of breaking into a couple of houses. The sheriff took the saw and told me I would be hearing from the prosecutor’s office if I was to be needed as a witness. I never got in any trouble and never heard from the prosecutor’s office.

<hijack>If your items purchased in good faith are siezed as stolen, how far back up the chain do you have a cause of action? Can you sue the fence? The guy he got it from?</hijack>

OK, I guess sometimes the law is closer to fair than I imagine. (Well, having something you bought in good faith confiscated isn’t exactly fair to you, but it’s fair to the person who was truly wronged.)

Yes- there’s an implied warranty that goes along with private sales called “warranty of title”, which basically means that anyone who sells something warrants that it’s his to sell, and not stolen.

Of course, the burden is on you (the buyer) to prove that person X was the seller, and it’s not like someone who sells you a stolen TV is going to give you a receipt or a bill of sale or something.

However, me ask this: I buy from a legit source an ancient artifact, that was looted from an ancient tribe A by another ancient tribe B. How far back does this go? Can the descentents of Tribe A sue me or have me arrested?

IANAL, but it seems to me that you would only have a case against the person you bought it from.

That person would then have to pursue action against the person he got it from, and so on up the line.

Am I wrong on this?

That’s an international law issue, and in general, the trend is towards “finders keepers” in such cases, which is why Britain gets to keep all the plundered stuff in its museums and such (the Elgin marbles, for example).

Elgin marbles aren’t "plundered’ , do you have a better example?