Fair Market Value of Stolen Goods Must Be Shown in FL Restitution: A Look at Danzey v. State

In general, a judge can require a convicted defendant to pay restitution as a condition of his or her parole or probation. If such restitution is not paid as ordered, the individual’s parole or probation can be revoked. Restitution orders can lead to serious consequences for a convicted defendant — particularly if he or she is unable to make the payment.

In Florida, payment of restitution is meant to cover the victim’s incident-related losses and/or damages caused by the convicted individual — unless there is a compelling reason not to make the defendant pay. That said, under state law, there must be substantial, competent evidence establishing the required restitution.

Danzey V. State

Recently, the Second District court, in Danzey v. State, ordered the defendant to pay restitution after he pled guilty to third-degree grand theft and providing false ownership information to a second-hand dealer. However, Danzey sought to challenge the restitution amount he was ordered to pay (which was over $108,000). Specifically, the defendant challenged the over $19,000 he was required to pay for two rings and a watch. He further claimed that the lower court abused its discretion by not lowering the restitution amount by the amount paid to the victim by her insurer.

Evidently, the only means used to establish the value of the watch and rings was the victim’s own testimony with respect to the purchase price.

Court Finds Not Enough Evidence to Prove Fair Market Value

The appeals court, in prior findings, has held that competent evidence and testimony provided by victims as to the actual purchase price of an item can suffice to establish value, especially where they bought the items themselves, were able to provide receipts to show the price paid and/or they were there when the items were purchased by someone else for them.

However, victims cannot effectively establish value through testimony regarding the amount someone else said they paid for an item. According to the court, restitution should be made based on the fair market value of the goods — meaning the condition of the item, as well as its depreciation and use must be taken into consideration.

The victim in Danzey advised the court that she did not know the actual price of one of the rings, nor could she say how she knew the price of the watch or other ring at issue. She also did not provide the court with proof of the current market value of the items or evidence of their condition. Accordingly, the court reversed the restitution order, as there was insufficient proof establishing value and remanded the case for a new hearing to determine fair market value for the items.

The court also found that the lower court is required to decrease the restitution amount by whatever was paid by the insurance company to the victim. This case illustrates the seriousness of restitution orders and the effect they can have on a defendant’s finances and overall personal life.  If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges, do not hesitate to contact the Sarasota criminal defense attorneys at the Fowler Law Group. Call (941) 900-3100 today.

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