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What is the Doctrine of Recent Possession? 

The Doctrine of Recent Possession in North Carolina can be a bit confusing. Generally, it refers to the doctrine of recent possession in NCpossession of recently stolen property.

Historically, in the United States, such possession and the “doctrine” may prove relevant to determining the mens rea or the “evil mind.” It is an inference of guilt, proving criminal conduct.

Sometimes people charged with a crime are caught “red-handed.” Other times, allegations of criminal wrongdoing may be supported by what defense lawyers may refer to as circumstantial evidence.  

The facts and circumstances may support an accusation and therefore arrest.

Ultimately, it is up to the Finder of Fact to decide what took place and whether the Defendant is guilty. The legal standard required to prove someone guilty is Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.

What is Character Evidence?

In North Carolina, the doctrine permits the Finder of Fact to draw the inference that the Defendant, the person accused of the crime, is guilty based on his or her possession of stolen goods.

That possession of stolen property must be in recent in proximity and/or time to a larceny or B & E (breaking and entering) or possession of stolen goods and even robbery charges.

The State of North Carolina (through the prosecutor) carries the Burden of Proof and Production of Evidence.

The ADA – Assistant District Attorney is charged with the responsibility to present evidence showing:

  1. The goods (property) at issue was stolen
  2. The stolen property was found in the custody of the Defendant OR
  3. The stolen property was under Defendant’s disposition and control
  4. Defendant’s possession of the property was to the exclusion of others AND
  5. Defendant possessed the property recently after it was illegally taken (stolen).

The property at issue must be identifiable and identified as stolen. The rightful owner of the property must be able to positively identify the stolen goods.

That can be difficult in the event the property is mass-produced or had no recognizable or identifying characteristics.

What is an Indictment? 

The defendant must have custody of and/or possession of the stolen goods. It’s also possible the stolen goods are subject to Defendant’s disposition and control.

Evidence of either constructive or actual possession can be sufficient at trial.

Actual possession might involve proof the Defendant had the stolen property on their person. Constructive possession may include proof the Defendant kept stolen goods somewhere he or she could control the disposition of the items.

With criminal allegations that involve more than one defendant, possession of the stolen goods must be to the exclusion of anyone else other than those who are co-conspirators and/or a party to the crime.

What is “recent possession?”

The Doctrine of Recent Possession requires the State to prove the accused possessed stolen property recently after the larceny or theft.

The time between the theft and Defendant’s possession should make it unlikely the Defendant could not have acquired the stolen goods honestly.

If the stolen goods are the type commonly and normally trade or sold through lawful means or channels, the time interval between finding the accused in possession and the theft must be relatively brief.

What types of charges may involve the Doctrine of Recent Possession?

The North Carolina Pattern Jury Instructions note the Recent Possession Doctrine may apply to criminal allegations of breaking or entering, robbery, and larceny. It may also be applicable to the crime of Possession of Stolen Goods.

The Doctrine of Recent Possession does not apply to the criminal allegation of Receiving Stolen Goods.

Outer Banks Criminal Defense Lawyer – Danny Glover

If you stand accused of criminal charges, including both misdemeanor or felony allegations, give Danny Glover a call.

Crimes of theft and offenses of ‘moral turpitude’ can carry long-term, adverse consequences. It’s imperative to seek legal counsel immediately – Danny Glover, OBX Criminal Defense Attorney

Before pleading guilty or admitting responsibility call Danny Glover to schedule a free consultation.

Call Danny Glover now at:  252-299-5300

You may also email Danny at:

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