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Is an Expert or an Owner Required to Establish the Value of Stolen Property in a New York Grand Larceny Arrest

When accused or arrested for any Grand Larceny crime in New York, each and every dollar or cent can potentially be relevant in determining the appropriate degree of Grand Larceny you may face. In fact, having a New York Grand Larceny lawyer or criminal defense attorney analyze the value of the property allegedly stolen can potentially be a critical piece of any defense. While an arrest for Grand Larceny Embezzlement may not require the same review due to the nature of the stolen property (cash or money), when the stolen property consists of computers, vehicles and televisions have a more subjective value that diminishes (or increases) over time, determining the correct market value can mean the difference between facing no jail and up to four, seven, fifteen and even twenty five years of incarceration.

As I have addressed through this blog as well as our sister blog (NewYorkCriminalLawyerBlog.Com), the initial assessment in ascertaining value of property is to determine the market value of the property at the time of the theft or larceny. So, for example, if someone steals your iPad, laptop computer and iPhone, who better to testify or establish the market value than the owner? After all, an owner knows the condition of the property, what applications were installed and the age of the items in question. Can’t a victim of theft merely assert a particular value to satisfy the legal burdens of the New York Penal Law? The simple answer to this question is that there is no easy answer. However, this is where the value or importance of your criminal lawyer may truly rear its head. Whoever that person is who establishes value, what must be done to ensure that it is accurate and fairly represents the market value of the items in question and how can your attorney challenge that determination?

In People v. Geroyianis (2012 NY Slip Op 04910, 4th Dept. June 2012), the defendant was convicted for crimes including Grand Larceny in the Third Degree (New York Penal Law 155.35). In brief, one is guilty of New York Third Degree Grand Larceny when one steals property in excess of $3,000, but not more than $50,000. The issue before the Appellate Court was whether or not the prosecution established that the value of the stolen property was in fact in excess of $3,000. In order to do so, the Court recognized the long standing rule set forth in New York Penal Law 155.20(1) that “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”

In attempting to establish this value, the victim of the crime testified about the property stolen from him including a computer purchased nine months earlier, a DVD player, about 150 DVDs and other equipment used in conjunction with the laptop computer. The Appellate Division found that the complainant established the value of the laptop beyond a reasonable doubt after testifying that he purchased it for $892 and had an accompanying bank statement to show the time of the purchase and amount of that purchase. As to the other items, however, the Court found that the evidence did not sufficiently establish value. Although the complainant testified that the DVDs cost roughly $15 to $20 each, and the DVD play cost $115, the complainant failed to provide evidence regarding the age or condition of that property. No concrete evidence was provided as to the purchase price or current value of all of the items either. Although the Court correctly found that testimony and bank statements can establish value, beyond the laptop, the complainant did not provide sufficient support. As a result, the conviction for Grand Larceny in the Third Degree did not stand and was reduced to Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree (New York Penal Law 155.30), a lesser offense.

The Court stated:

“The Court of Appeals has unequivocally held that ‘a victim must provide a basis of knowledge for his [or her] statement of value before it can be accepted as legally sufficient evidence of such value’ ” (People v Gonzalez, 221 AD2d 203, 204, quoting People v Lopez, 79 NY2d 402, 404). “Conclusory statements and rough estimates of value are not sufficient” (People v Loomis, 56 AD3d 1046, 1047; see People v Selassie, 166 AD2d 358, 359, lv denied 77 NY2d 911). Although a “victim is competent to supply evidence of original cost” (People v Stein, 172 AD2d 1060, 1060, lv denied 78 NY2d 975), “evidence of the original purchase price, without more, will not satisfy the People’s burden” (Gonzalez, 221 AD2d at 204).

Obviously, the value of Geroyianis is potentially significant in the right circumstances. This case, however, is merely one of many that you and your criminal defense attorney may utilize in establishing your strongest defense for a New York Grand Larceny arrest.

To further educate yourself on New York Grand Larceny and New York Criminal Possession of Stolen Property crimes, the legal decisions that form the basis of these laws and the cases that find themselves in the local news, review our blogs and websites either linked above or below.

Saland Law PC is a New York City criminal defense firm that represents clients throughout Westchester County, New York City and other suburban communities. Saland Law PC was founded by two former Manhattan prosecutors.

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