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This article was written by Michelle Makela - Legal Practice Director

Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning.  Michelle has been involved in all practice areas of the firm and in her personal practice has had experience in litigation at all levels (state and federal industrial tribunals, the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, Federal...

Handling Stolen Goods (Vic)


In Victoria, a person found guilty of handling stolen goods under section 88 of the Crimes Act 1958 is liable to 15 years imprisonment. A person will be found guilty of the offence of handling stolen goods if they dishonestly receive goods knowing or believing them to be stolen.

The Offence of Handling Stolen Goods

There are a number of ways this offence can be committed, including dishonestly bringing or assisting to bring stolen goods into Victoria. A person may also be found guilty of this offence if they undertook, assisted with or arranged for the retention, removal or disposal of stolen goods for the benefit of another person.

What Actons Might Constitute Handling Stolen Goods?

Examples of this offence include:

  • Purchasing a road bike from a person who you knew or believed to have stolen it.
  • Purchasing computers or software from a person who you believed to have stolen the computers and giving them to another person.
  • Buying a computer from someone at the pub when the price was so low as to cause you to believe it was stolen.

What the Police Must Prove

To find a person guilty of this offence, the prosecution must first be able to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that they did one of the following:

  • Received the goods or brought the goods into Victoria; or
  • Undertook or assisted in the bringing of goods into Victoria; or
  • Undertook or assisted in the retention, removal, disposal or realisation of goods by or for the benefit of another person; or
  • Arranged for the bringing of the goods into Victoria or arranged for the retention, removal, disposal or realisation of goods by or for the benefit of another person.

The police must also prove beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • That at the time of handling the goods they were stolen;
  • That at the time of handling the goods the accused knew or believed the goods to be stolen;
  • The handling was dishonest; and
  • The handling took place otherwise than in the course of the relevant stealing.

Therefore, the police must prove that the accused had actual knowledge or a belief that the goods were stolen at the time they were handled. It is not enough for the police to show that the accused suspected the goods were stolen.

Alternate Charges

Where police cannot prove that the accused had knowledge that goods were stolen, a lesser charge of dealing with property suspected of being proceeds of crime may be laid. The maximum penalty under section 195 of the Crimes Act 1958 for this offence is 2 years imprisonment.

Under section 88A of the Crimes Act 1958, if you have been charged with theft and handling stolen goods, both charges will be joined in the same indictment as alternative charges and tried together. This means that if you are found guilty of both offences, the court must set aside the charge of handling stolen goods and find you guilty of theft and you will be sentenced accordingly.

Possible defence

A person charged with handling stolen goods can argue in their defence that they were not aware the goods were stolen and had no belief that the goods were stolen.

Which Court Will Hear Your Matter?

If the stolen goods alleged to have been handled includes a motor vehicle or the amount or value of the stolen goods alleged to have been handled is below $100,000, your case may be heard summarily in the Magistrates Court, provided the consent of the accused and the prosecution is obtained.

However, if you have been charged with Handling Stolen Goods and the value or amount of the goods alleged to have handled exceeds $100,000, your matter will be heard in the County or Supreme Court of Victoria.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

WHERE TO NEXT?

If you suspect that you may be under investigation, or if you have been charged with an offence, it is vital to get competent legal advice as early as possible. Our lawyers are highly specialised in criminal law and will be able to guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.

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