Stolen goods - what is the risk of buying stolen things?

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There is a penalty of up to 5 years in prison for receiving stolen goods, i.e. buying criminal goods, e.g. theft. Accidental receiving is also punishable. The same goes for helping to sell or store things.When are we dealing with stolen goods?

Receiving - what is it about?

The purchase of items from a prohibited act, e.g. theft, robbery, or misappropriation, is considered to be receiving stolen goods. But not only buying things from a crime is a criminal offense.

What is fencing?

  • purchase of items derived from a prohibited act (e.g. purchase, acceptance of a donation);

  • assistance in selling such an item - e.g. preparing items for sale, assistance in finding a buyer;

  • taking such an item (taking possession of it);

  • helping to hide things.

Intentional or unintentional stolen goods

Of course, not every purchase of a stolen item or other prohibited act is a crime. The key issue is whether the buyer knew or should and can assume, based on the accompanying circumstances, that the item was derived from a prohibited act.


If the perpetrator knew it or assumed that it could be so and agreed to it - we are dealing with intentional handling. He is threatened with up to 5 years imprisonment (Article 291 of the Penal Code).

If the perpetrator, on the basis of the accompanying circumstances, should and could have assumed that the thing came from a prohibited act - we are dealing with unintentional handling. He is threatening them with up to 2 years imprisonment (Art. 292 of the Criminal Code).

Example 1.

Jan N. bought a new mobile phone from a man he met at a gas station for of its value. Jan N. based on the accompanying circumstances (place of sale, price of the telephone) should and could have assumed that the telephone was stolen. Therefore, he may be accused of the offense of inadvertent receiving of stolen goods.

"The domain of unintentional receiving is that the perpetrator does not know that the thing being the object of his actions was obtained by means of a prohibited act, but in the specific set of facts in which he undertakes certain actions in relation to the thing, it was possible for him to assume that the thing was obtained by such an act. In other words, the perpetrator of this crime is unaware, although he could and should have assumed on the basis of the surrounding circumstances, that he or she acquires or helps to sell, or accepts or helps to hide things that originate from the prohibited act ”.

Judgment of the Supreme Court of September 30, 2016, file ref. no.II KK 355/16

When is receiving stolen goods an offense and not a crime?

Taking picking up is not always a crime. In some cases, receiving stolen goods will be considered an offense. Not only will the penalty be lower. Persons punished for an offense are not entered into the National Criminal Register, so you can get a "clean" certificate of no criminal record.

A stolen goods is an offense when all of the following conditions are met:

  • applies to property with a value not exceeding PLN 500,

  • property comes from theft or misappropriation,

  • the fencer acquires such property or helps in its disposal or, in order to gain financial benefits, accepts it or helps to hide it,

  • the fencer knows that the property is stolen or misappropriated (intentional stolen goods) or, on the basis of the accompanying circumstances, should and may assume that it was obtained by means of theft or misappropriation (unintentional stolen goods).

For the offense of intentional handling, there is a risk of arrest, restriction of liberty or a fine. For the offense of unintentional receiving - a fine or a reprimand. This is due to Art. 122 of the Code of Petty Offenses.

Tickets for the match and receiving

Can receiving tickets also apply to tickets, e.g. for a match? Well, this question had to be answered by the courts that dealt with the case of tickets for the Euro 2012 match stolen from one of the sponsors. Three people stood before the court: the man who helped sell one of the tickets and two people who got tickets for free from friends. The case went to the Supreme Court. The latter found that the ticket was not movable within the meaning of the provisions on fencing. However, it is a document entitling to participate in the event (judgment of the Supreme Court of 23 April 2015, file reference number II KK 82/15).

This does not mean that using such a stolen ticket - the document is safe. There may be a crime against the credibility of documents under Art. 275 § 1 of the CC This provision shows, inter alia, that whoever uses a document confirming the property rights of another person or steals or appropriates such a document, is subject to a fine, imprisonment or up to 2 years imprisonment. The difference with fencing is, among others the fact that fencing may also be committed unintentionally. On the other hand, an offense against the credibility of documents can only be committed intentionally.

Affiliation of a computer program

Pending dealing with a computer program is also punishable (Art. 293 of the Criminal Code). It is the equivalent of a typical fencing, except that its object is not a thing, but a computer program. It can be committed intentionally or unintentionally.

“The stolen goods of a computer program can be attributed to the perpetrator who, on the basis of the accompanying circumstances, should and may assume that the computer program was obtained by way of a prohibited act and is acquiring the program. It is the equivalent of a typical fencing, except that its object is not a thing, but a computer program. It therefore requires proving that the program was previously subject to a prohibited act. '

Judgment of the Court of Appeal in Szczecin of September 25, 2014, file ref. no. II AKa 137/14.

Excise dealing

A separate criminal and fiscal offense is the so-called excise handling. It applies to goods subject to excise duty, e.g. alcohol, cigarettes. A criminal-fiscal offense is, inter alia, illegal import of excise goods to Poland without marking them with excise stamps, or illegal production of excise goods outside a tax warehouse (Article 63 of the Fiscal Penal Code).

For excise duty handling (Article 65 of the Polish Criminal Code), whoever such products (e.g. smuggled products):

  • acquires,

  • stores,

  • transports, sends or carries,

  • helps in disposal,

  • accepts,

  • helps to hide.

If he does it intentionally, he may be imprisoned for up to 3 years. If inadvertently (because on the basis of the accompanying circumstances he should and may assume that they are the subject of a prohibited act) - he or she may be fined.

Excise dealing can be classified not as a criminal and fiscal offense, but as an offense. It all depends on the value of the tax at risk of depletion. If it does not exceed five times the minimum wage, it is a tax offense. If it exceeds - with a tax offense. For 2019, the threshold is PLN 11,250.