Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.
In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut rejected a defendant’s insufficiency of the evidence claims regarding the value of shoplifted goods and the element of “taking” under Connecticut’s larceny laws.
This case arose from an incident that occurred on January 30, 2007. Stratford police responded to a shoplifting in progress at a local Wal-Mart. At the store’s loss prevention office, the officers observed live camera footage of the defendant and her accomplices attempting to hide DVDs, first in a clear plastic tote, then within a suitcase. The defendant stayed inside the store as the accomplices pushed a cart with the suitcase to a store exit and left it there as they proceeded outside, where they were arrested. The defendant then moved to the cart and pushed it slightly, but was detained before actually leaving the store. Pursuant to police department procedure in shoplifting cases, the officers asked a store employee to scan the DVDs and provide a receipt as if they were purchased. There were 101 DVDs with an aggregate value of $1,822.72.
The defendant was charged with larceny in the third degree and conspiracy to commit larceny in the third degree. At trial, an officer testified as to how the value of the DVDs was calculated, but could not remember the exact amount. After being shown a copy of his report to refresh his recollection, the officer testified that the total amount was $1,822.72. Defense counsel did not object to the line of questioning or the testimony on the grounds of hearsay or competency. No other evidence regarding the value of the DVDs was provided, such as the receipt or the DVDs themselves.
The defendant was convicted on both counts and sentenced to three years of incarceration. On appeal, she first argued that the officer’s testimony was incompetent evidence that the value of the DVDs exceeded $1,000. He did not have an independent knowledge of their value and was merely reciting a value from a document not entered into evidence. Even if such testimony was competent, the use of the store’s price tags was an inadequate measure of market value. Rather, according to the defendant, evidence of actual sales was necessary.
The Appellate court found that the officer’s testimony was sufficient proof because defense counsel did not object to its admission. “If [inadmissible] evidence is received without objection, it becomes part of the evidence in the case, and is usable as proof to the extent of the rational persuasive power it may have.” The Court noted that “market value” and “selling price” (a.k.a. price tags) are synonymous terms, and that “any evidence which reasonably tends to show the present value of the stolen goods may be admitted.”
The defendant next argued that there was insufficient evidence of a taking, as she was still inside the store and had not brought any DVDs outside at the time she was detained. In Connecticut, larceny consists of “(1) the wrongful taking or carrying away of the personal property of another; (2) the existence of a felonious intent in the taker to deprive the owner of [the property] permanently; and (3) the lack of consent of the owner.” To constitute a criminal taking, what is necessary is the “implicit transfer of possession or control,” not whether the item itself was removed from the owner’s premises. To constitute larceny in the third degree, the value of the property must exceed $1,000.
In this case, the Appellate Court was once more not persuaded that there was insufficient evidence. The actions taken by the defendant and accomplices “in concealing the DVDs and moving them to an area where they quickly could be removed from the store” was sufficient evidence to establish the essential taking element of larceny.
When faced with a charge of larceny, burglary, conspiracy, or attempt, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.