Here’s a little tip: if someone asks you to pawn something for them, it’s probably a bad idea. Pawning items involves you using your ID, and often the story plays out like this. Someone you know asks you to sell something for them, as they do not have an ID of their own. They might even offer to pay you for your trouble. You think nothing of it and pawn the item, keeping a little bit of the profit. Everyone is happy. Right?
About a week goes by until there is a knock at your door. A police officer is there and says that they have a warrant for your arrest. He or she claims that you obtained property by false pretenses and places you under arrest. What should you do next? After all, you are innocent of the crime.
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How can the police officer charge me with a crime? Most pawn shops are going to have you attest that the item your pawning belongs to you and that you have the right and ability to pawn it. Once the item is received most law enforcement agencies are performing routine checks to see if stolen items enter a local shop. Once they find the item they go back and check who pawned it. That person would have committed the felony charge of obtaining property by false pretense, because they received property, money, in return for pawning an item they claimed was theirs when it wasn’t. But how can they charge me? I didn’t know. But you did sign for the item stating it was yours. Most pawn shops also have video and so they will have not only your signature but also you on tape pawning the item. With these situations involving pawning items usually the charges don’t stop with what happened at the pawn shop.
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It’s important to note that law enforcement is often overworked and investigating more crimes than one can count. Because of this they are typically eager to close a case or criminal investigation so that way they can move on. When they see someone has pawned the item, and they know that it’s a stolen item because someone reported it that way, the question becomes how was that item stolen. Let’s say the item was stolen during a car or house break-in. Rather than check on how you got the item, if it’s recent enough to the B&E, they’ll typically charge you with that crime under a doctrine called recent possession. If the time the item was stolen and the time you’re in possession of it is so close in time they may very well bring a case against you for the B&E or any other crime that happened when the item was stolen.
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Pawning items is just a part of life. It’s something people do. The issue is when someone else wants you to pawn something for them. Be careful. A criminal lawyer, such as those at Garrett, Walker, Aycoth & Olson, Attorneys at Law can advise you on the steps you should take, such as giving the item back. Pawning an item that isn’t yours can be a problem no matter which way you look at it. Let’s say the item belonged to the person who asked you to pawn it and then they reported it stolen… Now that would be a big mess.