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Old 10-11-2012, 10:54 PM   #76
Andrew H.
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In the US, if you buy stolen merchandise and did not pay a fair market price, you can be charged with buying stolen merchandise. And that can be a dangerous because of differing perceptions on what an item is worth. Jewelry is a good example. The standard for the industry is triple cost for new jewelry. You can buy it used for the scrap value which is actually less than cost. A 14K ring is only 58.5% gold. The rest is alloys. Any diamonds, in the ring, do not have a scrap value but is still less that retail.
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I would state this somewhat differently. In the US, you can be charged with a crime if you knowingly purchase stolen goods. Proof that you knew the goods were stolen can be shown by the facts and circumstances of the purchase, such as paying such a low price that you would have had to have known that the goods were stolen. Particularly if you bought it from a guy selling new boxed items out of his trunk.

Of course, if you have a gold buying business and are paying $50 for a diamond ring that retailed for $4,000 and aren't asking for any evidence of ownership, you may face some scrutiny. And rightly so.
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Old 10-12-2012, 02:33 AM   #77
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Does a pawn shop have a legal obligation to research the background of a good? If you buy something from a pawn shop that was stolen and then pawned would you face criminal liabilities?
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Old 10-12-2012, 04:10 AM   #78
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If I remember correctly (from my law class, way back when), in Germany you cannot legally buy any stolen good, even in good faith. The only exception is money, if somebody buys something from you with stolen money the money is still yours. So if you buy a stolen good from a pawn shop you have to return the item to the original owner, but have a claim against the pawn shop owner and so on down the line.
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Old 10-12-2012, 06:38 AM   #79
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Does a pawn shop have a legal obligation to research the background of a good? If you buy something from a pawn shop that was stolen and then pawned would you face criminal liabilities?
In the US pawn shops do not have to research background. They do have to keep records for the city and county in which they do business. In Georgia they have a form for both city and county that lists the customer's name address, driver's license and a description of the pawned items. They also have to keep the pawned items for a set period of time. The police and sheriff's departments can and do check these against stolen merchandise reports and can confiscate items reported stolen.
The majority of pawn shops are honest. I had the following happen just recently.
Police came to my jewelry store with a ring originally sold by us. A local pawn shop called them when two high school boys came in to pawn 8 diamond rings. They claimed it was one's mother's jewelry and he had permission to sell them. They called the police and they were questioned. Nothing could be proven at the time. The pawn shop, at the request of the police bought the items into pawn so the police would have evidence. The police took pictures of them as they left the store and later identified them from school records. One ring was in our jewelry box. My wife recognized the ring and we looked up the customer for the police. All the rings were hers. She got them back the police arrested the boys and the pawn shop was out the money they paid. They did not have to do this. They knew the items were stolen and voluntarily helped the police catch the thieves.
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Old 10-12-2012, 11:32 AM   #80
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Does a pawn shop have a legal obligation to research the background of a good?
In many cases, yes. For instance, no pawn shop in their right mind would buy (or loan money on) a car without checking the VIN number with the police to make sure it's not stolen (and checking to make sure the VIN numbers in various places around the car match). And in most states, from what I understand, if something ever had a serial number, and doesn't any more, it's flat illegal for them to buy it.

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If you buy something from a pawn shop that was stolen and then pawned would you face criminal liabilities?
In general, no, but depending on the circumstances, it's possible. "Good faith" can be tricky sometimes, but sometimes, you should just know better.
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Old 10-12-2012, 04:31 PM   #81
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It's the same with how people selling their used goods on ebay don't have to declare it as an income for tax purposes. However, there's a point where selling items on ebay becomes classed as a business venture and then you're going to be in trouble if you don't start declaring your income.
This is not quite correct.

When you sell an item on ebay, the amount you are paid for that item is, legally, "income". All of it. It doesn't matter whether you are in business or not.

However, all of that income is not taxed. You only have to pay tax on the amount of the income in excess of what the item cost you in the first place - i.e., on the profit.

So if you buy a Hawaiian shirt for $100, and later sell it on ebay for $40, you have $40 in income - but you don't owe any income tax on it since there's no profit.

However, if that shirt is bid up to $150, you have $150 in income, but you will only owe income tax on the $50 profit. (Actually, you can adjust that $50 to a lower figure, based on subtracting Amazon's cut, shipping fees, etc.)

The "business" angle comes in when it turns out that you sell a lot of shirts, and on some you make money, and others you don't. Basically, if you are not selling enough shirts to be "in business," you have to figure out your profit on each shirt separately, and pay tax on the profit. But you don't get to take into account the loss you have on the other shirts. OTOH, if you are in business, you get to lump all the profits and losses together, and only pay tax on the net profit.

To sum up using the above figures:

1. sell one shirt on ebay, for less than it cost you = a loss of $60 and no tax.
2. sell one shirt on ebay, for more than it cost you = a profit of $50, on which you must pay tax.
3. combine 1 and 2, and if you are NOT in business = a loss on the first sale, a profit of $50 on the second sale, and you pay tax on the $50.
4. combine 1 and 2, and if you ARE in business = a loss of $60 on the first sale, a profit of $50 on the second sale, which added together means a net loss of $10, and you owe no tax.
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Old 10-12-2012, 06:04 PM   #82
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This baffles me, if you were in good faith when you acquired the item, wouldn't you be allowed to treat it as your own?
I buy a bike. Crook steals it from off my porch and sells it to you.

Now I see you riding down the street on my bike. I go up to you, claim my bike, and you say you bought it in good faith. You refuse to give me my bike.

I follow you home and take the bike off your porch when you go inside.

Have I stolen "your" bike? Do you really think that the police should arrest me for taking my own bike, and make me give it back to you?

"Good faith" has nothing to do with it.
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Old 10-12-2012, 06:06 PM   #83
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Yes, that was exactly how it worked until a couple of years ago in Sweden. And I assume there are countries were it still work that way. If you had no reason to suspect that the item was stolen (good faith) you own it.

And the guy that got the item stolen still cannot do what he wants with the item. It might still be illegal to for example to remove your stolen bicylce if you find it.
It seems to me that this is a good way to encourage crime.
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Old 10-12-2012, 06:10 PM   #84
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It is actually still that way in Sweden, but the requirements for showing good faith are a lot stricter than they used to be. If you bought something for half the re-sale value you were still within the confines of good faith, these days, not so much. If you're the victim you will obviously be recompensated by your insurance company.
That "half the re-sale value" standard is an interesting way to deal with the question of evaluating whether there is actual "good faith" in a sale.

Your last sentence illustrates the way that the existence of insurance warps moral decisions by introducing economic considerations.
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Old 10-12-2012, 06:20 PM   #85
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That "half the re-sale value" standard is an interesting way to deal with the question of evaluating whether there is actual "good faith" in a sale.
The half value was more a rule of thumb and not a hard rule. Circumstances like the place you bought the thing also influenced it. If you bought it in a proper shop then it the price would not have mattered at all, it had always been good faith. If you bought it at Sergels Torg (a place were a lot of stolen things are sold) then over half the price might not have been enough for it to be considered good faith.
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Old 10-12-2012, 06:21 PM   #86
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It seems to me that this is a good way to encourage crime.
Why? I don't see how there is a difference in encouragment here.
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Old 10-12-2012, 06:34 PM   #87
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I buy a bike. Crook steals it from off my porch and sells it to you.

Now I see you riding down the street on my bike. I go up to you, claim my bike, and you say you bought it in good faith. You refuse to give me my bike.

I follow you home and take the bike off your porch when you go inside.

Have I stolen "your" bike? Do you really think that the police should arrest me for taking my own bike, and make me give it back to you?
Yes, yes, and no. In that scenario, you are a vigilante, tampering with evidence in a crime, even if that evidence is your bike. For the law to be otherwise is to invite vigilantism, which is just not a good idea. The moment that it's up to you, and only you, to determine if that bike is your stolen bike, you have little incentive to tell the truth about it.
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Old 10-12-2012, 06:37 PM   #88
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Why? I don't see how there is a difference in encouragment here.
If claiming you were recovering stolen property allows you to take something from someone else's porch is an excuse, without review by the police or the courts, then whether or not you are recovering stolen property ceases to matter, only that you claim at you are.

To see see how well that works out in the real world, go review a few news stories about Florida's "stand your ground" law.
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Old 10-12-2012, 07:00 PM   #89
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If claiming you were recovering stolen property allows you to take something from someone else's porch is an excuse, without review by the police or the courts, then whether or not you are recovering stolen property ceases to matter, only that you claim at you are.

To see see how well that works out in the real world, go review a few news stories about Florida's "stand your ground" law.
Eh, but it was the fact that it is not allowed to try to reclaim something that has been stolen from you that encouraged crime.
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Old 10-12-2012, 07:29 PM   #90
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Eh, but it was the fact that it is not allowed to try to reclaim something that has been stolen from you that encouraged crime.
Nice try, but nobody said that. There is a procedure to reclaim stolen merchandise. It does not involve going on to someone else's property yourself and taking it solely on your own word that it's yours. You call the cops, tell them you spotted your stolen bike (take a picture with your cell phone even, preferably of the serial number) and let them handle it. Otherwise, you get a scenario like this:

You take the bike off the porch. A neighbor, after seeing you demand the bike (and not knowing what's going on) calls the cops on you. They come and arrest you, to the extent of holding you until they verify your story. Since you're not big on doing things properly, maybe you haven't properly reported the bike stolen in the first place, and they hold you for several days while they try to verify your story. If you mouth off to them, they take their time on that verifying. Even if they like you, you may well get prosecuted for trespassing, since you had no legal right to go on the other person's property even to recover your own stolen property.

Even if you have, they've wasted several hours of their time, that could be spent investigation far more serious crimes, and because you took the boke off the other guy's property, you've made it considerably more difficult to prove to a jury he ever had it. Because of your actions, the thief may well get away with it. If that's not encouraging crime, then what is it?

Do you really need to have someone explain to you that the way you recover stolen property is to report it stolen when it is, and if you spot it, you call the authorities? So that the court can examine the facts of the case and determine that it is, in fact, your property? Do you believe that every bicycle is so obviously unique that it couldn't possibly be the same model as what was stolen, but not the same bike? Without a review by the court, all you have is vigilantism. Your scenario offers the possibility of the thief killing you when you demand the bike back, and claiming self defense, since walking up to someone on the street and demanding something from them is probably strongarm robbery even if it's something they stole from you. Does that sound like a better option to you than simply calling the cops and going through the system?
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