According to an article the in MetroWest Daily News, a Framingham police officer stopped a Volkswagen sedan with four teenage occupants – all juveniles – last week. While it’s not clear why the officer originally stopped the car, after the driver and passengers were allowed to leave, an automatic license plate reader alerted the officer that the Volkswagen had been reported “missing” from Brockton. A second officer saw the car several hours later, however, and stopped it again. All four of the occupants were charged with receiving a stolen motor vehicle. The driver was also charged with driving without a license.
To prove that the teens are guilty of receiving a stolen motor vehicle under G. L. c. 266, § 28, the Commonwealth would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that: (1) the motor vehicle was stolen; (2) that the defendant(s) knew that the vehicle had been stolen; and (3) that the defendant(s) knowingly had the stolen vehicle in their possession. As to the first element, although the Commonwealth does not have to prove who stole the vehicle, it must establish that someone had taken it without the right to do so/consent of the owner, while intending to deprive the owner of the vehicle permanently. As to the second element, the Commonwealth must prove that the defendant(s) knew or believed that the vehicle was stolen – even if a reasonable person would have known or believed that the vehicle was stolen, a defendant may not be found guilty unless the Commonwealth proves that he or she actually knew, or at least believed, that the vehicle was stolen.