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Harris v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, Fourth District

January 8, 2020

SHAROD M. HARRIS, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, Broward County; Timothy L. Bailey, Judge; L.T. Case No. 17-1369CF10A.

          Carey Haughwout, Public Defender, and Gary Lee Caldwell, Assistant Public Defender, West Palm Beach, for appellant.

          Ashley Moody, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Richard Valuntas, Assistant Attorney General, West Palm Beach, for appellee.

          WARNER, J.

         Appellant challenges his conviction and sentence for grand theft, claiming that the court erred in denying his motion for judgment of acquittal. Because the State failed to produce any legally sufficient evidence of the value of items, we reverse.

         The State charged appellant with burglary and grand theft. At his trial, the State presented evidence that two iPads, an iPhone, an Alexa speaker, knick-knacks, a signed baseball, a camera, and jewelry had been taken from the home of a husband and wife and were found in the possession of the appellant. One of the pieces of jewelry was the wife's engagement ring. The husband testified to the purchase price of most of the stolen electronics. He did not testify as to their present condition or provide any information regarding their fair market value. The wife testified and described some of the jewelry, including: pearl earrings with a diamond chip, two gold bracelets, a gold anklet, two necklaces (one with a brown gemstone and the other with a circle of diamonds), a pair of diamond earrings, and a pearl ring with a circle of diamonds. Pictures of some of the jewelry were admitted into evidence. When asked if she could give a value to some of the items, she said the ones that had been passed down she would not know, but the rest of them, like the ones her husband bought, she could valuate. Over defense objection for lack of proper foundation, the wife estimated that her engagement ring had a value of "probably $3000." The earrings had been purchased by her mother and those cost $900. She clarified that she was with her mother when the earrings were purchased. A necklace with a brown pendant was "worth probably about a hundred."

         Upon the close of the State's case and again at the close of all the evidence, appellant moved for judgment of acquittal on the grand theft charge, because there was insufficient proof of the value of the goods taken. The court denied the motion. The jury acquitted appellant of the burglary charge but convicted him of grand theft. He was sentenced to five years in prison. He now appeals the grand theft conviction.

         Appellant challenges the denial of his motion for judgment of acquittal. He claims that the evidence was legally insufficient to prove that the fair market value of the stolen items was more than $300. Because the testimony of the victims was insufficient to prove the value of the property, and the State offered no other evidence, we agree with appellant.

         Section 812.014(2)(c), Florida Statutes (2017) provides that "if the property stolen is: 1. Valued at $300 or more, but less than $5000" it is grand theft of the third degree. The term "value" has been defined in the theft statute. The relevant part of section 812.012(10), Florida Statutes (2017) provides:

(10) "Value" means value determined according to any of the following:
(a)1. Value means the market value of the property at the time and place of the offense or, if such cannot be satisfactorily ascertained, the cost of replacement of the property within a reasonable time after the offense.

         In Bruce v. State, 276 So.3d 1, 3 (Fla. 4th DCA 2019), we noted that "'[v]alue' is an essential element of grand theft that must be proven by the State beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt."

         The proof of value requires a two-prong test. "First, the court must ascertain whether the person testifying is competent to testify to the value of property." Lucky v. State, 25 So.3d 691 (Fla. 4th DCA 2010) (quoting Mansfield v. State, 954 So.2d 74, 76-77 (Fla. 4th DCA 2007)). Generally, an owner is presumed competent to testify as to the value of his or her property. However, "an owner's estimate of the value of stolen property must be supported by facts that show enough familiarity with the property to lend credence to the opinion." Sanchez v. State, 101 So.3d 1283, 1287 (Fla. 4th DCA 2012) (citations omitted). "[W]here 'the value of the ...


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