Dealing in Stolen Property and Possession of Recently-Stolen Items

           In the case of Bertone versus the State of Florida, Mr. Bertone was convicted of the crime of dealing in stolen property for "trafficking" in two saws which he pawned and later retrieved from the same pawn shop.


          The evidence at Bertone's trial consisted of the victim stating that "the saws were stolen from his truck between June 15 and 17, 2002.  Bertone testified that after work on June 17, 2002, he ran into his friend, Jose Garcia, a carpentry worker.  Garcia's car had broken down and appeared to be overheated.  Because he did not have identification with him, Garcia asked Bertone to pawn two saws for him so that Garcia could use the money.  Bertone took the saws to the Happy Hocker pawn shop and requested $40 for them.  He took the money back to Garcia.  A few days later, Bertone returned to the pawn shop with money given to him by Garcia.  He retrieved the saws and returned them to Garcia."


          In order to prove that Bertone knew or should have known that the saws were stolen, the prosecutor relied upon a law which says that "proof of possession of property recently stolen, unless satisfactorily explained, gives rise to an inference that the person in possession of the property knew or should have known that the property had been stolen."


          Mr. Bertone appealed his conviction to Florida's Fourth District Court of Appeal which reversed the conviction because "the unexplained possession of recently stolen property, and nothing more, was insufficient to support [Bertone's] conviction" for dealing in stolen property.  The court of appeal found the following facts to be particularly relevant:


          1.  Bertone did not try to conceal his conduct with the saws; rather, he pawned and retrieved the saws using his real name and identification;


          2.  He did not sell the saws at less than fair value;


          3.  Bertone used the saws as collateral for a loan from the pawn shop, and he repaid that loan;


          4.  He was not caught possessing the saws a very short time after they had been stolen from the victim's truck;


          5.  Nothing about the physical condition of the saws should have alerted Bertone that they were stolen;


          6.  He was not caught in a lie while giving an improbable story; and


          7.  What Bertone stated at his trial did not conflict with anything he said prior to his trial.

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