Is Possession of ''Recently Stolen'' Property a Felony In Texas ?
Evidence that an accused exercised control over property without consent of the owner, intending to deprive him of it, is sufficient to prove theft. Chavez, 843 S.W.2d at 588.
Unexplained possession of recently stolen property also establishes the offense, because it has long been considered sufficient to prove the same elements. Id.
To draw the inference of guilt from only the circumstance of possession of stolen property, the defendant must be shown to have been in possession thereof recently after the theft occurred. Sutherlin v. State, 682 S.W.2d 546, 549 (Tex. Crim. App. 1984).
Whether stolen property is "recently" possessed by the defendant is a question of fact and not of law. Id. Generally, the shorter the interval between the theft and the possession, the stronger the inference, although the cases will vary according to such factors as the ease with which such property can be transferred. Hardage v. State, 552 S.W.2d 837, 840 (Tex. Crim. App. 1977).
Additionally, when there is independent evidence of a burglary, the unexplained personal possession of recently stolen property will support an inference of guilt. Hardesty, 656 S.W.2d at 76.
The application of such an inference does not violate the due process requirements of the federal constitution. Barnes v. United States, 412 U.S. 837, 846, 93 S. Ct. 2357, 2363, 37 L. Ed. 2d 380 (1973).
Normally, recent, unexplained possession of stolen property is a sufficient circumstance, in and of itself, to convict a possessor of stolen property of the theft of such property. Sutherlin v. State, 682 S.W.2d 546, 549 (Tex.Crim.App.1984) Mere possession of stolen property, however, does not give rise to a presumption of guilt; it is only an inference of guilt. Id.
To warrant an inference of guilt from the circumstance of possession alone, the possession must be personal, recent, unexplained, and involve a distinct and conscious assertion of right to the property. Id.
When the party in possession gives a reasonable explanation for having recently come into possession of the stolen property, the State must prove the explanation is false. McElyea v. State, 599 S.W.2d 828, 829 (Tex. Crim. App.1980).