What Happens if You Pawn a Stolen Item?

pawn a stolen item

Pawning an item is a more reliable means of securing quick money working Americans than applying for a traditional loan. Over 30 million Americans pawn items for money annually. There are over 11,000 pawn shops in the United States. Pawnbroking as a business brings in annual revenue of over $14 billion. And any business that lucrative can spur the temptation for corruption and criminality. Like trying to pawn a stolen item.

Pawn a Stolen Item and the Legal Explanations Evaporate

For example, fencing is the criminal activity of disguising the sale of stolen goods via legitimate transactions.

You fence stolen goods when you pawn a stolen item.

If you pawn a stolen item, you put yourself in a situation where the pawnbroker must report you. You could be imprisoned for years or pay a heavy fine.

And if you get in this situation, you only have yourself to blame for it.

Before we explain that, let’s clarify the act of pawning an item.

Pawn Shop 101

A pawn shop loan is a collateralized financial loan. That is all it is. The loan, the amount of money that the pawnbroker offers you, is collateralized based on the value of the item you offer for collateral.

Just present an item that you want to pawn in exchange for a loan. The pawnbroker will appraise the item on the spot and calculate how much of a loan they will offer you.

Pawnbrokers calculate and appraise value based on experience, market value, and how much they think they can earn on resale.

If you accept the pawnbroker’s loan offer, you will get cash on the spot. Don’t expect a huge payday. Whatever the pawnbroker pays you will represent a fractional value of your item’s actual value.

A pawn shop is like a casino – the house always wins. As long as your item has value, the pawnshop is likely to offer you a loan on its own terms. And most people go to a pawn shop for quick cash when they have no other loan options.

That fact works in the pawnbroker’s favor and gives them more leverage relative to pricing.

The pawnbroker will also give you a pawn ticket after the transaction. Whatever you do, don’t lose it!

Getting Your Pawned Items Back

The pawn ticket is your receipt. It also contains the terms of your collateralized pawn loan as well. Once you lose it, the transaction becomes void and the pawnbroker will keep your pawned item.

The interest rate for the loan can range from 5% to as high as 182%, depending on the pawnbroker you patronize.

The pawnbroker will keep your loan collateralized pawn item for 30 to 60 days on average.

You have the potential to sell items, but pawnbrokers much prefer offering loans.

Pawnbrokers can make more money on loans and all loan-related fees. And then, if you don’t return the pawn ticket and repay the loan, the pawnbroker gets to keep and resell your item.

What Do Pawnbrokers Want?

To better understand what would happen to you if you pawn a stolen item, unwittingly or otherwise, you should know what pawnbrokers want.

Pawnbrokers want you to collateralize objects of quantifiable market value. Objects of extreme sentimental value do not have quantifiable market value just because they bear emotional significance to you.

Keep in mind that not all pawnbrokers are alike – what one pawnbroker might accept, the next might not.

If there is one thing that the United States does not have a low supply of, its guns. However, there are many pawnbrokers who will accept guns. You will make more money pawning rare and authenticated antique firearms and rifles.

Pawnbrokers love electronics in excellent working condition. These would include laptops, tablets, smartphones, and other kinds of electronics. Antique electronics, like vintage video game consoles, may be valuable as long as they work.

Exercise equipment is also another good pawn temptation for pawnbrokers. You will make more money with advanced, larger pieces of exercise equipment, like treadmills, than the odd dumbbell.

As long as they are aesthetically sound and are in good working condition, pawnbrokers love instruments too.

Pawnbrokers love authenticated antiques of all kinds as well.

Depending on the pawnbroker, you may also be able to sell cars and other kinds of vehicles.

The most in-demand item that pawnbrokers really like is jewelry made from quality precious metals like gold, silver, and rare jewels.

Depending on the value or significance of the item you wish to pawn, a pawnbroker may require more information from you in order to pawn it.

So, if you pawn a stolen item, unwittingly or otherwise, this is how you will get into trouble.

What Happens if You Pawn a Stolen Item

Imagine that you are pulled over by the police. They have determined that the vehicle you are driving is stolen. No matter what you say, you will pay criminal and legal consequences whether you own the vehicle or not.

The same thing will happen if you pawn stolen property. Since you are in possession of it and sold it, the police will assume you understood it was stolen beforehand.

In fact, if you get into trouble trying to pawn a stolen item, then you have no one to blame except yourself.

When you pawn an item, you must give a pawnbroker your personal information and sign for it. You must also sign a government document that verifies you didn’t steal the property.

There are federal and state laws that prevent pawnshop brokers from fencing stolen property. No pawnshop broker is going to jail for your assumed mistake.

Furthermore, police regularly stay apprised on a national database for stolen pawn item alerts called NEWPERS. Pawnbrokers send in tips to NEWPERS.

So, if you pawn a stolen item, the pawnbroker has all of your vital information. Also, if you do something stupid, like pawn a stolen gun that isn’t registered in your name, the pawnbroker is legally required to notify the police.

If you pawn a stolen item that is later reported stolen, and the pawnbroker is notified, the pawnbroker will notify the police.

If you pawn a stolen item, you will be charged with theft. The severity of the charge depends on the state you reside in and your presumed criminal intent.

In Florida, you could be charged with a felony for trying to pawn a stolen item. You could be imprisoned for 15-years and be fined over $10,000.

Know What You Are Pawning

The very act of pawning an item requires you to sign for it and give the pawnbroker your vital information.

Whether you knew the item was stolen or not will be irrelevant to an unforgiving American legal system. It is feasible that you may find yourself in a situation where you unwittingly pawn a stolen item?


Do you really want to find yourself in a courtroom trying to explain that to a judge?

Know what you are pawning before you pawn them. If you pawn a stolen item, the consequences could be more than you can bear.

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