Fair Market Value of Stolen Items Must Be Proven in Florida Restitution – Danzey v. State

Florida law requires a court to order a criminal defendant convicted of a crime to pay restitution to the victim for any damage or loss caused by the offense or “related to the defendant’s criminal episode” unless there are clear and compelling reasons not to require restitution.  Restitution can be a condition of probation or parole, and the probation or parole can be revoked if the defendant does not pay the restitution as ordered.  A defendant can face serious consequences as the result of a restitution order, particularly if the amount is more than the defendant is able to pay.  Thus, there must be competent, substantial evidence that establishes the amount of the award by the greater weight of the evidence.

The Second District recently considered a defendant’s challenge to the amount of a restitution order in Danzey v. State.  Restitution was ordered after the defendant entered a guilty plea to third-degree grand theft and giving false verification of ownership to a second-hand dealer.  The court ordered him to pay $108,755 in restitution.  The defendant appealed, challenging the $19,800 he was ordered to pay for a canary diamond ring, a watch, and a diamond and ruby ring.  He also argued on appeal that the trial court abused its discretion by not reducing the restitution by the amount the insurance company had paid the victim.

The value of the rings and watch in question were only established through the victim’s testimony as the purchase price.  The victim testified that she received the canary diamond ring as a gift in 1980, and it had been purchased for $11,500.  She testified that the purchase price of the watch was $5,500 in 1979.  She further testified that the purchase price of the ruby ring was “…something like I don’t know $27 or $800.00” in 1977.

The appeals court noted that it had previously held that a victim’s testimony of the actual purchase price, receipts showing the price, the amount someone else paid for the item in the presence of the victim, and the condition of the item are competent evidence to establish value.  The victim cannot establish the value by testifying to the amount someone else told her they paid for the item, however.  Additionally, restitution should be based on the item’s fair market value.  Thus, the item’s condition, use, and depreciation should also be considered.  In this case, the victim did not state how she knew the prices of the canary diamond ring and the watch, and she did not know the exact price of the ruby ring.  Furthermore, she did not testify or submit evidence of the condition or current market value of any of the items.  The district court found that there was insufficient evidence to establish the value of the jewelry in question and reversed the restitution order as to the amount ordered for those three items.  The court remanded for a new hearing to determine the fair market value of the diamond ring, the watch, and the ruby ring.

The district court further held that the trial court must reduce the restitution award by the amount paid to the victim by her insurance company.  It directed the trial court to determine that amount on remand, noting that the trial court could order restitution directly to the insurance company on remand if there was sufficient competent, substantial evidence.

A large restitution order can have serious financial and personal consequences for a defendant.  In some cases, the defendant may not have the money to pay a large restitution award, and failure to pay can lead to probation revocation.  Our Florida theft crimes attorneys understand the evidence required to support a restitution award and will fight for your rights.  If you are facing criminal charges, call Anidjar & Levine at (800) 747-3733, or submit an online contact form.

Related Blog Posts:

Florida Probation Violations and the Youthful Offender Act – West v. State

Florida Special Probation Conditions Must Be Reasonably Related – Williams v. State