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Article 134 - Stolen Property: Knowingly Receiving, Buying, Concealing

If a service member buys, receives or conceals stolen property, when he knew that the property was stolen from another person, then it is an offense and he can be punished as per the provisions under paragraph 106 of the Manual for Court Martial. Knowingly buying, receiving and concealing stolen property is covered under Article 134, along with several other offenses.

The text of statute of Article 134 says that all neglects and disorders which are adverse to the discipline and good order in the armed forces, all conduct that can bring discredit to the armed forces, all offenses and crimes not capital, can be punished by convening a court martial.

Elements of the offense

  • The accused wrongfully received, concealed or bought property that had a certain value.
  • The property was owned by another person.
  • The property was stolen from that person.
  • In these circumstances, the accused's conduct was adverse to the discipline and good order in the armed forces or the nature of the act could bring discredit to the armed forces.

Explanation for the elements

In general: Criminal liability for receiving the stolen property cannot be hoisted on the person who has stolen the property. However a person, who is principal to the larceny, even when he has not stolen the property, can be held guilty of receiving the property stolen by the thief. A person becomes principal to the larceny if he abets, aids, commands, counsels or causes another person to commit the larceny. But note that the principal cannot be held guilty of larceny and receiving the stolen property.

Knowledge: It is important to show that the owner had knowledge that his property was stolen. This can be proved through circumstantial evidence.

Wrongfulness: A service member would have received stolen property wrongfully, if it was received without excuse or justification. For instance, a service member cannot be held guilty of receiving stolen property if he did it with the intention of returning the property to its owner or if the property was seized by a law enforcement officer to use as evidence.

Maximum punishment for committing this offense

  • If the value of the property is $500 or lesser

The accused can be punished with a bad conduct discharge, forfeiture of allowances and pay and 6 months of confinement.

  • If the value of the property is more than $500

The accused can be punished with a dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of allowances and pay and 3 years of confinement.

An example of how a service member may be charged with this offense

If the military does not punish service members for knowingly receiving, concealing or buying stolen property, then thieves will be able to dispose of stolen property with impunity, because the person who buys such property know that he cannot be convicted. So this provision actually controls larceny rates to some extent because people are afraid of the consequences of buying, concealing or receiving stolen property.

It can happen that the individual who receives the property is found first. A similar case was reported from Fort Campbell in 2011.

A sergeant stationed at Fort Campbell was charged with receiving band instruments and electronic equipment (a mixer, a keytar and an amplifier) that belonged to the 101 st Airborne Band stationed at Fort Campbell. The musical instruments included several guitars, a saxophone and a trombone. After the accused received the instruments, he had taken them to his father's place and stored them there.

Another soldier was also charged in the case. He had also received some of the stolen musical and electronic equipment. The total value of the stash recovered was over $32,000.

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