Every element of every crime is equally important. Irrespective of the charge you face, prosecutors in New York City, Westchester County or anywhere else in the State of New York must prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt. This is no different if you you are charged with Grand Larceny as codified in Article 150 of the New York Penal Law or a violent offense of Assault as codified in Article 120 of the New York Penal Law. Addressing the former offense of Grand Larceny, one of the elements that an Assistant District Attorney must prove to a jury or a judge at trial is that the value of the alleged property you allegedly stole exceeds either $1,000.00, $3,000.00, $50,000.00 or $1,000,000.00. Simply, value is an essential element of any Grand Larceny crime that your criminal lawyer or criminal defense attorney will vigorously challenge. If a judge or jury agrees with you, as opposed to the prosecutor, then either the trial will end in an acquittal or a conviction for a lesser criminal offense. Where a case involves cash or money, your attorney’s task may be quite difficult, but how is value assessed (or challenged) when the value of the property in question is not easily quantified?
In People v. Helms, 2014 NY Slip Op 5374 ( 3rd Dept. 2014), the defendant was accused of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree (New York Penal Law 155.35), Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Third Degree (New York Penal Law 165.50) and Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree (New York Penal Law 155.30). Without going into too much detail, a person is guilty of NY PL 155.35 and NY PL 165.50 if they steal or possess stolen property respectively and the value of that property exceeds $3,000.00. The lesser NY PL 155.30 requires that the value of the property exceed $1,000.00. In terms of potential incarceration and sentences, the “D” felonies of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree and Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Third Degree each carry up to seven years in prison while Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree only (that, of course, is relative) carries a possible maximum sentence of four years in prison.
Back to the case above, the issues presented on appeal was whether or not a lay person (a non-expert) could establish the value of the property (it was numerous pieces of jewelry) sufficiently for a jury to then determine whether the value elements were proven beyond a reasonable doubt. In other words, must an expert testify that each piece of jewelry was worth “X” or could the owner of that property establish that value?
In response to this issue, the Court stated as follows:
“[V]alue is defined as ‘the market value of the property at the time and place of the crime, or if such cannot be satisfactorily ascertained, the cost of replacement of the property within a reasonable time after the crime’ (Penal Law  155.20 ; see People v Adams, 8 AD3d 893, 893-894 ; People v Sheehy, 274 AD2d 844, 845 , lv denied 95 NY2d 938 ). ‘In determining the value of stolen property, the jury need only have a reasonable, rather than speculative, basis for inferring that the value exceeded’ the statutory requirement (People v Adams, 8 AD3d at 894; see People v Sheehy, 274 AD2d at 845).”