How is "value" established in Jacksonville theft cases?

December 29, 2012

As a Jacksonville Theft Attorney, I have represented hundreds of people accused of stealing. There are several Duval County Theft charges, including petit theft (also referred to as petty theft) and grand theft. Stealing is considered a Petit Theft in Florida if the value of the items taken is $300.00 or less. If the value is below $100.00, the theft is considered a second degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail. If the value of the property is between $100.00 and $300.00, it is considered a first degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. If the value of the stolen items is more than $300.00, the theft is considered a felony in Jacksonville.

In order for the Jacksonville State Attorney's Office to prove the enhanced crimes of theft (Jacksonville first degree misdemeanor and felony theft), the state's lawyers must prove "value". Under Florida law, value is considered the market value of the property at the time and place of the theft, or if that amount cannot be ascertained, the replacement cost of the property near the time of the theft. In my Duval, Clay and Nassau County theft cases, if the prosecutor does not prove the value of the merchandise, the state attorney cannot enhance the theft charge.

In a recent case in South Florida, a criminal defendant was convicted of first degree petit theft. When the victim was asked how much her property (jewelry, camera and remote controls) was worth, she responded that she wasn't sure. The victim speculated amounts. The defendant's criminal defense attorney argued that the state attorney did not prove value beyond a reasonable doubt. The appellate court agreed. The court found that the prosecutor on the theft case had to provide competent substantial evidence showing that the stolen property was between $100 and $300. Although the owner of stolen property is generally competent to testify as to the value of their property, they must not only show that they are the owner, but that the victim was familiar with the property. The Florida courts have a two step test to determine what is enough evidence to prove value. First, the owner has to show that they have "personal knowledge" of the property, such as the cost and condition of the items. Second, the Florida state attorney has to present enough evidence to prove the value. A victim's opinion on value, without more, is not enough to sustain a conviction for a first degree misdemeanor petit theft in Florida.

Jacksonville theft charges can tarnish your record forever, because theft crimes are considered crimes of dishonesty. If you or a loved one has been accused or arrested for any type of Northeast Florida theft crime, call The Mussallem Law Firm 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call our Duval County Theft Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, at (904) 365-5200 for a Free Consultation today.