“Value.” Say it with me. “Value.” Heck, scream it from the trees or the jury box. “Value!” Sing it from the judge’s chair or the prosecutor’s office. Whether in the Grand Jury or Trial Jury, value is often the most critical if not central element of any Grand Larceny arrest in New York. Sure, there has to be an unlawful taking or stealing (don’t forget to challenge that along with your arrest), but stepping away from the foundation of any larceny or theft arrest, barring the property stolen satisfying a specifically identified object or type of thing, a credit card for example, value is king (or queen). Don’t take my word for it. I’ve only practiced criminal law as a New York criminal defense attorney and both a former Manhattan Assistant District Attorney and Westchester County Town Prosecutor for more than sixteen years. Heck, what do I know…
Without boring anyone with the repetitive examination and review of Article 155 of the New York Penal Law, remember the following. Thefts over $1,000 are class “E” felonies in violation of New York Penal Law 155.30. Thefts over $3,000 are class “D” felonies in violation of New York Penal Law 155.35. Thefts over $50,000 are class “C” felonies in violation of New York Penal Law 155.40. Thefts over $1,000,000 are class “B” felonies in violation of New York Penal Law 155.42. Need some perspective as to what this all means to you the accused or arrested defendant? “E” felonies are punishable by up to four years in prison, “D”, seven years in prison, “C”, fifteen years in prison, and “B” twenty five years in prison. Steal a car, steal a lap top, steal an iPhone, steal a boat load of cash (or even a boat). Assuming the property stolen is not a statutorily identified felony, again, a credit or debit card for example, its all about value.
Speaking of value, because value can dictate whether or not your arrest is a Petit Larceny or a Grand Larceny and, potentially more importantly, whether you are facing four, seven, fifteen or even more years in prison, understanding how the District Attorney can establish value in a criminal case is of great import. Unfortunately for the accused, it can be fairly simple. In fact, an expert need not always be a part of the value equation.
In People v. Colon, 2016 NY Slip Opinion 51712 (Kings County Supreme Court 2016), a Grand Jury indicted the defendant for Third Degree Grand Larceny pursuant to New York Penal Law 155.35 and upon conviction and sentencing he faced up to seven years in prison. No, Colon did not steal cash or some other property that on its face has a readily identifiable value. Instead, the Grand Jury found Colon perpetrated a Grand Larceny for stealing photography equipment. To the untrained eye, aka, your criminal lawyer, judge and Grand Jury, a camera is a camera. As such, the People need to present some form of expert type testimony from a recognized and established person in the field, right? Nope!
In finding the presentation to the Grand Jury legally sufficient, the Court stated:
“The testimony of the complaining witness that ‘the total amount of the theft was approximately $10,000’, coupled with his work as a professional photographer and salesman of camera equipment, along with his detailed description of the stolen equipment, including a ‘very rare’ camera, was sufficient for a rational jury to infer rather than merely speculate that the value of the stolen property exceeded the statutory threshold.’ (People v. Lopez, 79 NY2d 402; People v. Bleakley, 69 NY2d 490; People v. Helms, 119 AD3d 1153).”
If it has not been drilled into your head, value should be both respected and feared. It can save you from prison or be the nail in your legal coffin. Challenging value with your criminal lawyer is as essential as any other legal or evidence based defense. Facing a Petit Larceny or lesser Grand Larceny felony is significantly better than the alternative.
To learn more about New York theft related offenses and crimes before, or after, you face a criminal arrest or charge, review this blog and the websites below. While not necessarily as witty as this particular awe inspiring entry on value, there you will find significant and easily readable information on these topics.
Saland Law PC is a New York criminal defense law practice. Both founding New York criminal defense attorneys, Elizabeth Crotty and Jeremy Saland, served as prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.