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How Does a Court Determine the Value of Stolen Goods?

By San Diego Attorney on August 11, 2021

The value of stolen goods will determine whether a charge will be filed as petty theft or grand theft. The value of the goods is a crucial point in the level of a theft charge. The value should reflect the “fair market value” of the item. If it is determined the value is above $950, grand theft charges will be filed. The value of the item is of critical importance to the accused person – if the allegedly stolen item is overvalued by the prosecutor, the accused could face an unfair legal situation.

Fair Market Value – What Is It?

The fair market value is the value of the item as of today. In some cases, the value is clear, as it will be the listed price on an item alleged to have been stolen from a store. In other cases, the value may be more challenging. A stolen item may increase or decrease in value over time. When determining the fair market value, the cost to replace an item is typically used by the prosecutor to determine value. As the value can be a grey area, particularly for unique works of art, or unique items, experts may be consulted to estimate the value of a stolen item.

Disputing the Value of a Stolen Item: Your Defense Attorney

If the value of the item is overinflated, the penalties in a conviction could be a disaster. One of the most critical actions taken by your criminal lawyer may be to challenge the value given the item by the prosecuting attorney. Experts can be called upon to place a more accurate value on the items, with this valuation presented to the attorney when negotiating on behalf of the accused person. If the value is determined to be under $950, petty theft is the charge rather than grand theft.

Restitution Fines

Under the California Penal Code, restitution for the losses in a theft crime is to be paid by the convicted defendant. The court will order the convicted person to pay a fine as outlined in Section 1464 of the code. The law states that the restitution fine is to be set at the discretion of the court, as deemed commensurate with the seriousness of the crime. In felony cases, the fines imposed can range from $300 to $10,000. In misdemeanor convictions, the fine can range between $150 and $1,000.

The Formula

When setting a restitution fine in a felony theft case, the court can multiply the minimum fine under the law by the number of years in the prison sentences, then multiplied by the number of the felony counts for which the individual has been convicted. It stands to reason that the value of the property is a critical point in both the length of time imposed in jail or prison and the amount of restitution the convicted person may be ordered to pay.

Your Defense Options

The defense case crafted by your criminal lawyer must be compelling, fully researched, supported by evidence, and presented to the court in a persuasive manner. In charges of grand theft, intent must be proven by the prosecutor. Your defense lawyer may present evidence that you took another person’s property by accident, or you believed you had permission to use it and had no intent to steal. In other cases, a person may be accused of felony grand theft due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time, in the presence of another person who stole the property and was innocent.

Your Lawyer – It Matters

The skills and experience of your theft crime defense attorney can make the difference between freedom and years behind bars. At jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys, our approach is thorough and professional, including addressing the vital matter of the value of stolen items. Our firm was founded by a former LAPD investigator and criminal law specialist, James N. Dicks. We offer a free initial consultation and offer legal representation in both English and Spanish.

Contact jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys at once at (760) 630-2000 if you or someone you love has been charged with a theft crime in San Diego County.

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Posted in: Theft Crimes

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