FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF NORTHAMPTON COUNTY W. Revell Lewis, III, Judge
Jack A. Thornton, III, for appellant.
Aaron J. Campbell, Assistant Attorney General (Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, II, Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.
Present: Judges Humphreys, Beales and Huff Argued at Chesapeake, Virginia
MEMORANDUM OPINION [*]
ROBERT J. HUMPHREYS JUDGE
Larond Antonio Ayres ("Ayres") appeals his conviction in a bench trial in the Circuit Court of Northampton County ("trial court") for grand larceny, in violation of Code § 18.2-95. The trial court convicted Ayres for stealing a PlayStation 2, an additional controller for the PlayStation 2, hair clippers, a bag of sugar, and other items to which no value was assigned from the victim's home. For the following reasons, we reverse the judgment of the trial court.
Ayres argues on appeal that,
the trial court erred in concluding that the evidence elicited at trial was sufficient to find beyond a reasonable doubt that [he] committed the alleged crime of Grand Larceny. Specifically, the element of value of the concerned property was not adequately proven beyond a reasonable doubt to have been equal to or in excess of $200.00, as is required under [Code] § 18.2-95, in order to prove the [offense] of Grand Larceny.
"The judgment of the trial court, sitting without a jury, is entitled to the same weight as a jury verdict and will not be disturbed on appeal unless 'plainly wrong or without evidence to support it.'" Williams v. Commonwealth, 278 Va. 190, 193, 677 S.E.2d 280, 282 (2009) (quoting Code § 8.01-680). "An appellate court does not 'ask itself whether it believes that the evidence at the trial established guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.'" Id. (quoting Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 318-19 (1979)). "Rather, the relevant question is whether 'any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.'" Id. (quoting Jackson, 443 U.S. at 319).
Code § 18.2-95 provides three definitions of grand larceny, one of which is, "simple larceny not from the person of another of goods and chattels of the value of $200 or more." "The monetary amount specified in Code § 18.2-95 is an essential element of the crime of grand larceny, and the Commonwealth bears the burden of proving this element beyond a reasonable doubt." Britt v. Commonwealth, 276 Va. 569, 574, 677 S.E.2d 763, 765 (2008).
"The test is market value, and particularly retail value." Robinson v. Commonwealth, 258 Va. 3, 5, 516 S.E.2d 475, 476 (1999). "'Fair market value is the price property will bring when offered for sale by a seller who desires but is not obliged to sell and bought by a buyer under no necessity of purchasing.'" Id. at 5-6, 516 S.E.2d at 476 (quoting Bd. of Supervisors v. Donatelli & Klein, Inc., 228 Va. 620, 628, 325 S.E.2d 342, 345 (1985)).
"The value of the stolen property is measured as of the time of the theft, and the original purchase price may be admitted as evidence of its current value." Parker v. Commonwealth, 254 Va. 118, 121, 489 S.E.2d 482, 483 (1997). "The opinion testimony of the owner of the stolen item generally is competent and admissible on the issue of the value of that property." Id.; see also Walls v. Commonwealth, 248 Va. 480, 482, 450 S.E.2d 363, 364 (1994).
"It is generally recognized that the opinion testimony of the owner of property, because of his relationship as owner, is competent and admissible on the question of the value of such property, regardless of his knowledge of property values. It is not necessary to show that he was acquainted with the market value of such property or that he is an expert on values. He is deemed qualified by reason of his relationship as owner to give estimates of the value of what he owns. The weight of such testimony is, of course, affected by his knowledge of the value."
Haynes v. Glenn, 197 Va. 746, 750-51, 91 S.E.2d 433, 436-37 (1956) (quoting 20 Am. Jur. Evidence § 892). Further, value may be proven by circumstantial evidence. See Veney v.Commonwealt ...