In a Virginia Grand Larceny case, is the value of the item stolen the “replacement value” or the “actual value”? Ask the Arlington-Fairfax Criminal Law Attorney.

Briefly stated, the measure of value of a stolen item is the actual value for Virginia Grand Larceny purposes.  However, there are some circumstances where the replacement value can be used.

“Larceny” is stealing, theft, or shoplifting.  To convict, the prosecutor must prove (1) that the defendant took personal property belonging to another and carried it away; (2) that the taking was against the will and without the consent of the owner; and (3) that the taking was with the intent to steal.

If the value of the allegedly stolen property was worth $200.00 or more, or the item was a firearm, the crime is felony “Grand Larceny,” with a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison and no mandatory minimum punishment.  Otherwise, the crime is “Petit Larceny,” a misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.00.  Thus, the value of the stolen property is very important.

The Court of Appeals of Virginia recently addressed the issue of “replacement value” versus “actual value.”  In that case, Levin Grimes was spotted by neighbors coming out of a crawl space of an unoccupied house in Newport News.  The police were called and found copper pipes scattered throughout the backyard and near the crawl space.  The lock to the crawl space was cut and Mr. Grimes had three cutting or grabbing tools and a flashlight.  In his car were wire cutting instruments, pipe cutting tools, and pliers.

His criminal defense attorney argued that there was no proof that the stolen copper pipes were worth more than $200.  If the value of the stolen copper had exceeded $200, the crime would have been felony Grand Larceny.  If the value was less than that, it would have been misdemeanor Petit Larceny.  The question was, how should the court determine value – by its “replacement value” or its “actual value?”

The prosecutor tried to prove “replacement value” by calling as a witness the executor of the estate that owned the property.  He testified that the bank paid $4,700 to repair and replace the pipes.  The person who did the work testified that he paid approximately $950 for the copper pipes he installed.  Thus, the prosecutor offered “replacement value.” 

The appellate court rejected this logic.  It wrote that evidence of replacement value can, in certain circumstances, be used to draw inferences about the market value of the stolen item.  However, there has to be evidence showing the condition of the stolen items as compared to the replacement items.  Here, there was no such evidence and the court didn’t have the information necessary to properly judge the actual value of the old stolen pipes.  The verdict on the Grand Larceny was reversed and Mr. Grimes will get a new trial on the misdemeanor.  Since he was sentenced to 47 years in prison with 40 years suspended, this was a big deal.

The case was Grimes v. Commonwealth, 0213-13-1 (October 29, 2013).

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