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Determining Value in Stealing Cases

Have you or someone you know been charged with stealing in Missouri? If so, the value of the alleged stolen property needs to be considered when thinking of the possible penalities you may be facing.

  • Stealing Over $500 is a class C felony carrying a maximum punishment of up to 7 years in the Missouri Department of Corrections.
  • Stealing Under $500 is a class A misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of 1 year in the County jail.

Therefore, whether the value of the property is over or under $500 is a critical issue, one that criminal defense attorneys and prosecutors often disagree on.

How to determine value of allegedly stolen property?

Missouri Revised Statute §570.020 provides some guidance in determining value. It provides in part that "value" means the market value of the property at the time and place of the crime, or if such cannot be satisfactorily ascertained, the cost of replacement of the property within a reasonable time after the crime.

In today's world, the value of certain types of property can diminish rather quickly. For instance, electronics like computers, televisions and phones lose value almost instantly. In a recent case, our client was accused of stealing a television that was purchased in 2007 for $900. Today, that same exact television is selling for $349 at Walmart and Costco. The prosecutor's office in St. Louis County charged our client with Stealing Over $500, a class C felony. The theft occurred in 2010, making the determination of the value of the television at the time of the alleged theft nearly impossible to ascertain. The replacement cost, as evidenced by the advertisements from Walmart and Costco certainly indicated the value was less than $500. Ultimately, the prosecutor in that case agreed to amend the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor.

While most property depreciates over time, some property increases in value and it can have the opposite effect. Consequently, when faced with stealing charges in Missouri, valuation of the property will be critical. It will determine whether a person is charged with a felony which can jeopardize a person's freedom and leave a long lasting stain on the person's criminal record. If you have been charged with stealing in Missouri, contact the criminal attorneys at Millikan Wright, LLC for a free consultation.

Categories: Criminal Defense

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