Does receipt of a stolen vehicle (Pen. Code, § 496d) fall within the scope of Proposition 47 even if the value of the vehicle is less than $950?
October 14th, 2018

In People v, Bussey (2018) 24 CA5th 1056 the defendant contended that his conviction for receipt of a stolen vehicle should be reduced to a misdemeanor under Proposition 47 because the provisions of Penal Code section 496 for misdemeanor sentencing apply as a matter of law to the more specific section 496d. The Court of Appeal disagreed. A “person who buys or receives any property that has been stolen,” knowing that the property has been stolen, violates section 496. Proposition 47 amended section 496 to provide that the offense is a misdemeanor if the value of the stolen property is $950 or less. But it did not amend section 496d, which provides that every person who buys or receives a stolen vehicle may be charged with a felony. Section 496 does not include a “sweeping phrase” regarding the entire subject of knowing receipt of stolen property, similar to Penal Code section 490.2 and the definition of grand theft, which is “a strong signal” section 496 is not intended to operate in the same fashion. It is not a violation of equal protection principles to treat the theft of a car valued at $950 and less different than receiving a stolen car at the same value. “The difference in treatment between petty thieves and receivers of stolen property is easily rationalized.” The Penal Code section “496 series” is intended to dismantle the market for stolen goods, which is more dangerous and detrimental than a mere thief. As for the difference in treatment between receipt of a stolen car (Pen. Code, § 496d) and general receipt of stolen property (Pen. Code, § 496) “it is plausible that the drafters elected to proceed in an incremental way, gauging the effects of the proposition’s sea change in penal law, and—in light of the small number of functioning vehicles worth under $950 at present values—did not consider it an injustice to fail to include them and instead leave the matter to the charging discretion of prosecutors.”


However, on 9/12/2018, the California Supreme Court granted review in this case and deferred briefing pending decision in People v. Orozco (2018) 24 Cal.App.5th 667, review granted 8/15/2018 (S249495/D067313), which presents the following issue: Can a felony conviction for receiving a stolen vehicle in violation of Penal Code section 496d be reclassified as a misdemeanor under Proposition 47 in light of Penal Code section 496, subdivision (a), which provides that receiving other stolen property is a misdemeanor when the value of the property does not exceed $950?