How to Avoid a Felony Conviction and Prison In Your Grand Theft Case

Have you been charged with the crime of grand theft of electronics or other depreciating assets?  If so, you may have grounds to have your charges reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor, thereby avoiding a felony conviction, prison and/or substantial jail time.  The recent decision from the Florida First District of Appeal in Gallion v. State shows how.

There the State alleged Gallion had stolen two televisions and a stereo from the victim.  At trial, the victim provided a receipt for one of the televisions reflecting it had been purchased for $532.86 the year before Gallion stole it.  The victim provided an additional receipt showing she had purchased the stolen stereo for $699.99.  There was no evidence offered regarding the value of the other television. Except for the two receipts, there was no testimony regarding the condition of the items at the time they were stolen, or how much they may have depreciated in value after they were purchased.  Gallion was convicted of grand theft.  He then appealed.

The appellate court first stated that in a grand theft case, the State must prove the value of the stolen property is greater than $300 pursuant to Florida Statute § 812.014(2)(c)1. (The threshold value for grand theft has since been raised to $750.)  “Value means the market value of the property at the time and place of the offense or, if such cannot be satisfactorily ascertained, the cost of replacement of the property within a reasonable time after the offense.” Id. at § 812.012(10)(a)1. Further, citing to its prior decision in Carter v. State, the court observed “[t]he value of tangible personal property may be proved with evidence of the original purchase price, together with the percentage or amount of depreciation since the property’s purchase, its manner of use, and its condition and quality.”  Critically, the court further noted under Carter the State’s evidence is insufficient where it “elicit[s] no testimony regarding the condition and quality of any of the items taken or their depreciation.”

In Carter, the victim estimated the value of the stolen items to be $4,000.  Those items included a laptop purchased a few months prior for $640, and a tablet less than one year old, estimated to cost between $250 and $300 new. The court there found this evidence to be insufficient to establish the value for the charge of grand theft, stating “the only evidence of the value of the stolen items was testimony providing ballpark estimates at best,” and “[t]he State elicited no testimony regarding the condition and quality of any of the items taken or their depreciation.” Similarly, in Gallion’s case, the State offered no evidence regarding the condition and quality of the stolen electronics at the time of the theft. Accordingly, the court reversed Gallion’s conviction because the State failed to prove the value of the stolen items in the manner required under Carter.  The court then instructed the trial court on remand to enter an amended judgement for petit theft and resentence Gallion on that reduced charge.

If the State’s only proof of the value of stolen items in your case was the purchase price, or “ballpark estimates”, you may be able to get your theft charges reduced on the ground the State failed to provide evidence of their depreciation and condition and quality.  Such evidence can make a significant difference in valuing stolen items in theft cases.  For example, in two years the average iPhone will lose 45% of its original value and an Android flagship phone will lose 71% of its original value.  Similarly, televisions depreciate 10 – 30% every six months depending on brand and usage.  Finally, the depreciation rate for personal computers is 50% per year.  As you can see, electronics in general have steep depreciation rates which may be important to consider in your case.  Other types of items depreciate as well, and their rate of depreciation should be carefully considered, as it can likewise make a significant difference in potentially lowering the type and degree of charges you ultimately face in your grand theft case.

If you’ve been arrested for grand theft, you should consult with a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney with knowledge about, and experience with, properly valuing the stolen items.  Doing so will afford you the best chance of getting your charges reduced and minimizing your risk of prison or extended jail time.  Call me for a free consultation to discuss how I can best help you with your grand theft case in Jacksonville, Fernandina Beach, Yulee, Macclenny, Green Cove Springs, Middleburg, St. Augustine or surrounding areas.

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