Valuating Stolen Property in New York: NY Penal Law 155.20

The types of crimes in New York relating to theft and stealing generally revolve around two main articles of the New York 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 crimes are found in New York Penal Law Article 155 and New York Penal Law Article 165. Whether the theft related crime you are accused of is based in Tax Fraud, Embezzlement, Extortion or any other theory of larceny including Larceny by Trick, Larceny by False Promise or Larceny by Acquiring Lost Property, the value of the property in question is critical. Yes, some offenses are felonies based on the type of property, but the vast majority of theft and stolen property crimes in New York relate to the amount or value of what you, the accused, are charged with and arrested for wrongfully taking from another person or business.

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

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

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

An exception to the market value 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 value based on the following:

An instrument that reflects a debt owed, including a check or promissory note, obviously has limited value if examined solely as a piece of paper. Instead, New York Penal Law 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 New York judges and courts would subtract the amount paid from the amount due (and the associated value).

Where a person is accused of stealing a ticket, whether its to see a concert or to ride the train, New York District Attorneys rely on New York Penal Law 155.20(2)(b) for valuation. Simply, the value 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 value as the price of the ticket as charged to the general public.

Even more complicated, and a matter often challenged by criminal defense attorneys from Manhattan to Brooklyn and Westchester to Rockland counties, is how New York courts determine value where the instrument in question creates, releases or somehow affects a legal right or privilege of value. In these circumstances, where an amount is not easily ascertainable, a District Attorney is permitted to argue pursuant to New York Penal Law 155.20(c) that the value 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 in New York, or a jury at trial, is confronted with a situation where despite New York Penal Law 155.20’s numerous means to ascertain value, no expert nor other professional can put a number on the property in question. In these cases, New York Penal Law 155.20(4) becomes the default. According to this section, when all else fails, courts will set value as less than $250.00.

Because value often central to differentiating misdemeanors from felonies as well as degrees of felony offenses, your criminal attorney’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 and your criminal defense lawyer 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 crimes you face and the laws of New York. Let the New York criminal lawyers and former Manhattan prosecutors at Crotty Saland PC use their experience, knowledge and advocacy as your greatest ally.

Contact the New York Criminal Lawyers & Larceny Attorneys Online or at 212.312.7129 Now.

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