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When a Massachusetts criminal defendant is accused of buying or receiving stolen property, the prosecution must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant knew the item was in fact stolen at the time he purchased or took possession of it.

The Massachusetts statute prohibiting the receipt of stolen goods is found at M.G.L. c. 266, § 60.

According to the Supreme Judicial Court,

The infraction of this statute is not proved by negligence nor by failure to exercise as much intelligence as the ordinarily prudent man.  The statute does not punish one too dull to realize that the goods which he bought honestly and in good faith had been stolen.  Guilty knowledge upon the part of the defendant…is a prerequisite of a violation of the statute.  (Emphasis added.)

Commonwealth v. Boris, 317 Mass. 309, 315 (1944).

Nevertheless, the SJC has made clear that direct evidence of a person’s knowledge is not necessary.  Instead, knowledge may be inferred from the facts and circumstances of the case.

A person’s knowledge, however, like his intent, is a matter of fact, which may not be susceptible of proof by direct evidence.  In that event resort must be had…to proof by inference from all the facts and circumstances developed at the trial.

Commonwealth v. Holiday, 349 Mass. 126, 128 (1965).

The same “knowledge” requirement is applied to M.G.L. c. 266, § 28 which prohibits the buying or receiving of stolen motor vehicles. See Commonwealth v. Dellamano, 393 Mass. 132 (1984).