Legal Updates

When Buying A T-Shirt Becomes A Criminal Offense

T-ShirtThe act seems innocent enough.  One day you are at work and your friend brings in T-shirts.  They are really nice T-shirts.  They bear the emblem of the college mascot.  These shirts cost $100.00 in the local bookstore.  Your friend (let’s call her Bonnie) is selling them for $10.00 each.

You ask friend Bonnie where she got the shirts. Bonnie tells you her friend Samantha works as a security guard at the local bookstore.  When the store closes Samantha brings home discount merchandise. Samantha gives some shirts to Bonnie, who sells them on campus taking 100% of the profits.

If you buy the T-shirt are you a criminal?  Is Bonnie criminal for exchanging stolen merchandise?
Some prosecutors would say, “Yes.”

Do you deserve to be branded with a criminal record?

In my personal opinion, the answer is clearly “No.”

There are three elements to the crime of Receiving Stolen Property.  As I have mentioned before in this blog, every element of the crime must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

First, the property in question (The T-shirt) must be stolen.  In our factual example, the state is going to have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone stole the shirts.

Second, the state must prove that the defendant possessed the T-shirt.  Possession is proven if the defendant intentionally, received, retained, or disposed of the property in question. Under the law, a person acts “intentionally” when it is his or her conscious object to engage in conduct of a particular nature to achieve a particular result. Bonnie has clearly possessed the shirts.  If you take the shirt from Bonnie then you have possessed the shirt.

Third, the state must prove that the defendant knew the T-shirts were stolen, or believed that it was probably stolen. Clearly, Bonnie has committed the crime of Receiving Stolen Property.  But what about you?

Even if Bonnie doesn’t mention the shirts were stolen, you may be convicted if you buy a $100.00 shirt for $9.99. Your case gets worse if you buy it out of the back of a pickup truck, or in circumstances that would suggest to a reasonable person that the items were stolen goods.  It is not necessary that a defendant know the specific details of the theft, nor see the items stolen.

If you are in a position similar to Bonnie, and face criminal charges in Pennsylvania, call our office to schedule a free consultation.  We can discuss your options and how to best proceed.  We can be reached around the clock at (267) 535-9776.


Under the wrong circumstances, buying this T-shirt could make you a criminal offender.  If you or a loved one faces criminal charges, get a Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer who will aggressively defend your rights.  Call us at (267) 535-9776 for a free consultation.

Defense lawyers in Center City, Philadelphia are ready to take your call.