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PARKER v. COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA (59897)


PARKER v. COMMONWEALTH
OF VIRGINIA


June 6, 1997
Record No. 961582

STEVEN B. PARKER

v.

COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA

OPINION BY JUSTICE BARBARA MILANO KEENAN
FROM THE COURT OF APPEALS OF VIRGINIA

Present: Carrico, C.J., Compton, Stephenson, Lacy, Hassell,
and Keenan, JJ., and Poff, Senior Justice


The sole issue in this appeal of a grand larceny conviction is
whether the Commonwealth proved beyond a reasonable doubt the
value of the item stolen.

Steven Brently Parker was convicted in the Circuit Court of
the City of Roanoke of stealing property valued at more than
$200, in violation of Code ? 18.2-95. The trial court
received the evidence in a bench trial, and we state that
evidence in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, the
prevailing party in the trial court. Cheng v. Commonwealth,
240 Va. 26, 42, 393 S.E.2d 599, 608 (1990).

Shirley Mae Mills testified that Parker and a few other guests
visited her home one evening in January 1995. After the guests
left, Mills observed that the handset of her cordless telephone
unit was missing, but that the base was left undisturbed. She
stated that Parker returned to her house later the same evening
and informed her that he had taken the handset. Mills notified
the police, who then arrested Parker.

Mills testified that she purchased the cordless telephone unit
in September 1994 for more than $200, and that the unit was in
good condition when it was stolen. She stated that she would not
have sold the unit for less than the amount she had paid for it.

Detective R.S. Kahl testified that Mills gave him the sales
receipt for the cordless telephone unit, which showed that she
had paid $239.99 for the unit. The receipt was admitted into
evidence. Kahl further stated that Parker confessed he had taken
the telephone handset from Mills and had sold it for about $25 to
$50. Parker had signed a written statement to this effect which
was received in evidence.

At the conclusion of the Commonwealths evidence, Parker moved
to strike the evidence of grand larceny. He asserted that the
evidence showed nothing more than petit larceny, because there
was no evidence that the value of the handset alone was $200 or
more. The trial court denied the motion, stating that "the
base of a cordless phone, without the rest of it, is of
insubstantial value."

Parker did not present any evidence in the guilt phase of the
trial. The trial court found him guilty of grand larceny, and
sentenced him to five years’ imprisonment, suspending three years
and eleven months of that sentence. The Court of Appeals affirmed
the trial courts judgment in an unpublished opinion.

On appeal, Parker contends that the evidence was insufficient
to prove that the value of the handset alone was $200 or more. He
argues that although Mills stated she purchased the cordless
telephone unit for over $200, she did not testify regarding the
separate value of the handset or the base, nor did she testify
about the respective functions of these component parts. Parker
further asserts that the trial court’s factual determination that
the base was of "insubstantial value" is not supported
by the record.

In response, the Commonwealth argues that it established the
value of the property stolen through Mills testimony and the
sales receipt. The Commonwealth contends that the trial court’s
factual determination that the base of the cordless telephone was
of insubstantial value was not plainly wrong and, therefore, the
judgment should not be disturbed on appeal. The Commonwealth
further asserts that the cordless telephone unit was rendered
inoperable by the loss of the handset and, thus, that the value
attributable to the stolen handset should be the value of the
entire unit. We disagree with the Commonwealth’s arguments.

Code ? 18.2-95(ii) defines grand larceny as "simple
larceny not from the person of another of goods or chattels of
the value of $200 or more." The value of the goods specified
in the statute is an element of the crime which the Commonwealth
must prove beyond a reasonable doubt. Walls v. Commonwealth,
248 Va. 480, 481, 450 S.E.2d 363, 364 (1994); Knight v.
Commonwealth
, 225 Va. 85, 88, 300 S.E.2d 600, 601 (1983); Dunn
v. Commonwealth
, 222 Va. 704, 705, 284 S.E.2d 792, 792
(1981). While evidence that an article has some value is
sufficient to sustain a conviction for petit larceny, when the
value of the stolen item determines the grade of the offense, the
Commonwealth must prove the value to be at least the statutory
amount. Walls, 248 Va. at 481, 450 S.E.2d at 364; Wright
v. Commonwealth
, 196 Va. 132, 139, 82 S.E.2d 603, 607 (1954).

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. See Dunn, 222 Va. at
705, 284 S.E.2d at 792. The opinion testimony of the owner of the
stolen item generally is competent and admissible on the issue of
the value of that property. Walls, 248 Va. at 482, 450
S.E.2d at 364; Haynes v. Glenn, 197 Va. 746, 750, 91
S.E.2d 433, 436 (1956).

As stated above, the owner of the stolen property testified
that she valued the cordless telephone unit at more than $200.
The receipt for the purchase showed that she paid $239.99 for the
entire unit only four months prior to its theft. There was no
testimony, however, that the handset was worth $200 or more, and
the Commonwealth did not present other evidence to prove that the
value of the handset satisfied the required statutory amount.
Moreover, there was no evidence supporting the trial court’s
finding that the base of the cordless telephone unit has no
functional value without the handset.

We find no merit in the Commonwealth’s argument that the value
of a stolen component of a unit is the same as the value of the
entire unit, if the unit is rendered inoperable by the theft. The
monetary element of the statute is measured by the value of the
item actually stolen, not by the value of the entire property of
which it is a part. See Walls, 248 Va. at 481, 450
S.E.2d at 364; Wright, 196 Va. at 139, 82 S.E.2d at 607.
Therefore, we conclude that the evidence of value presented in
this case was inadequate as a matter of law to establish this
element of the offense of grand larceny beyond a reasonable
doubt.

For these reasons, we will reverse the Court of Appeals’
judgment and the judgment of conviction will be vacated. This
case will be remanded to the Court of Appeals with direction that
it be remanded to the trial court for a new trial on the charge
of petit larceny.

Reversed and remanded.

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