Valuating Stolen Property: New York Penal Law 155.20

The types of White Collar crimes in New York relating to theft and stealing generally revolve around two main articles of the Penal Law. These crimes are either the misdemeanor offenses of Petit Larceny or Fifth Degree Criminal Possession of Property and the felony offenses involving any degree of Grand Larceny or Fourth Degree Criminal Possession of Stolen Property through the First Degree offense. While each crime has its own elements that your criminal lawyer can explain in greater detail, all of these offenses are codified in Article 155 and Article 165. Whether the theft related crime you are accused of is based in Tax Fraud, Embezzlement, Extortion or any other theory including by Trick, False Promise or Acquiring Lost Property, the determination of value is critical. Yes, some offenses are felonies based on the type of property or the means by which it was stolen, but the vast majority of theft and stolen property offenses relate to the worth of the property wrongfully taken.

New York Penal Law 155.20: Market and Replacement Value of Property

New York Penal Law 155.20 values stolen property in numerous ways. Countless cases and legal decisions further interpret the meaning and application of these statutes. That said, pursuant to Penal Law 155.20(1), barring certain exceptions, market value is the governing factor. This rate is not determined from the past or in the future. Nor is it speculative. Instead, whether a professional or expert ultimately sets a particular number, it is determined at the time and place of the crime. In event this number is unavailable, then the criminal code allows prosecutors and courts to use the replacement cost of the property.

New York Penal Law 155.20: Exceptions to Market and Replacement Value of Property

An exception to the market analysis for a Grand Larceny or Criminal Possession of Stolen Property case involves property that is a written instrument of a certain nature. Not including written instruments that have readily ascertainable values, other written instruments have a rate based on the following:

An instrument that reflects a debt owed, including a check or promissory note, obviously has limited worth if examined solely as a piece of paper. Instead, PL 155.20(2)(a) designates the value of these written instruments as the amount due or collectable. Negating this amount for valuation purposes, if some of the debt, for example, has been paid, then judges and courts would subtract the amount paid from the amount due to ascertain the correct number.

Where a person is accused of stealing a ticket, whether it’s to see a concert or to ride the train, District Attorneys rely on PL 155.20(2)(b). Simply, the worth for larceny purposes is the face value of those tickets. If no amount is printed on the ticket, then courts will allow prosecutors to assess the price of the ticket as charged to the general public for this purpose.

Even more complicated, and a matter often challenged by criminal defense attorneys from Manhattan to Brooklyn and Westchester to Rockland counties, is how the courts determine value where the instrument in question creates, releases or somehow affects a legal right or privilege. In these circumstances, where an amount is not easily ascertainable, a District Attorney is permitted to argue pursuant to PL 155.20(c) that the amount is the maximum economic loss to the rightful holder as a result of being deprived of the instrument.

New York Penal Law 155.20: When Value Cannot be Determined

Sometimes, despite the law, a Grand Jury, or a jury at trial, is confronted with a situation where despite NY PL 155.20’s numerous means to ascertain an amount, no expert nor other professional can put a number on the property in question. In these cases, PL 155.20(4) becomes the default. According to this section, when all else fails, courts will set value as less than $250.00.

Because the property’s worth is often central to differentiating misdemeanors from felonies as well as degrees of felony offenses, your criminal counsel’s ability to successfully challenge valuation is of great import. Simply, it can mean the difference between no state prison and incarceration for years. While your first line of defense may be challenging the veracity of a theft claim, the legal basis for a particular search or whether a statement you are alleged to have made was provided without violating your rights, you would be foolish not to explore and confront a prosecutor’s valuation when warranted. Failure to do so may not merely lead to dire consequences, but ones you will be forced to live with and regret in perpetuity.

Be smart. Understand the White Collar crimes you face and the practical application of the law involving Grand Larceny and other felony and misdemeanor thefts. Let the New York criminal lawyers and former Manhattan prosecutors at Crotty Saland PC use their experience, knowledge and advocacy as your greatest ally.

Call the White Collar and Fraud Attorneys at (212) 312-7129 or Contact Us Online Today.

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