Before examining Georgia law specifically, it is important to note that the legal definition of theft will vary by state. In general, however, the criminal charge of theft is intentionally removing or otherwise taking possession or control of another individual’s property without their consideration or consent.
In some jurisdictions, theft may also be referred to as larceny. In Georgia, there are many different types of theft, including:
- Theft by deception;
- Theft by shoplifting;
- Theft by conversion;
- Theft by taking.
Theft by taking is one of the more common forms of theft in the state. Theft by taking, in Georgia, is taking property that belongs to another individual with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property.
Typically, property that is stolen in a theft by taking includes personal property, such as jewelry or electronics. Theft by taking is different from shoplifting because shoplifting involves a different type of property than theft by taking.
Theft by taking involves the personal property of another individual, while shoplifting involves merchandise from a store. Georgia law defines deprive as withholding the property of another by permanently or temporarily disposing of the property in a way that makes it unlikely the original owner of the goods or property will recover it.
In Georgia, theft by taking may be charged either as a misdemeanor or as a felony, depending on the value of the goods or property that was taken. In order for a defendant to be convicted of this offense, the prosecution must show that they are guilty of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.
When Is Theft by Taking a Felony in Georgia?
As noted above, theft by taking in Georgia may be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony. Whether theft by taking is a misdemeanor crime or felony under Georgia law depends on the value of the property or goods that were taken.
Georgia law provides that any individual who commits a theft by taking property valued at over $500 may face a felony charge. In Georgia, felony theft by taking is defined as the taking of another individual’s property or goods that are valued at over $500 without their permission and with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property.
If an individual is charged with felony theft by taking, they may face a prison sentence of one to ten years, criminal fines of more than $1,000, or both. Certain offenders may receive harsher penalties, such as repeat or habitual offenders or offenders who commit theft by taking in other special circumstances.
Individuals who commit a theft by taking as a bank or government employee, for example, may face up to 15 years in prison. In order to determine the value of a property that was taken, Georgia law provides that the value of the property will be calculated at the fair cash market value, either at the time and location of the theft or during any time the thief had possession.
A court may consider other evidence of the value of the property, including:
- Testimony from the original owner;
- Common knowledge of the property’s value;
- Other evidence that may help to quantify the value of the property.
What Is Shoplifting?
Shoplifting is a criminal offense involving stealing merchandise that is for sale in a retail store. To commit shoplifting, the perpetrator must intend to deprive the merchant or store owner of the merchandise permanently.
Shoplifting is often done by concealing merchandise in a pocket or bag and leaving the store without paying. Examples of shoplifting also include:
- Swapping price tags to pay less for an item;
- Wearing clothing and then returning it;
- Eating food in a store without paying for it.
What Is the Law Regarding Shoplifting in Georgia?
In Georgia, shoplifting is a theft crime that is known as theft by shoplifting. Theft by shoplifting is the crime of working alone or with other individuals to take merchandise with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the value of the item or to use the item themselves.
The individual who committed the theft by shoplifting has no intent to pay the full price for the merchandise.
What Are Some Examples of Theft by Shoplifting in Georgia?
Actions that may be considered theft by shoplifting under Georgia law include:
- Altering the price tag on merchandise or goods at any store;
- Taking or concealing merchandise from the store while the individual is shopping;
- Transferring merchandise from one container to another container inside the store;
- Taking possession of merchandise while the individual is in the store and paying for it;
- Exchanging labels or price tags from one item to another; or
- Causing the store to charge a lesser amount for the merchandise.
What Makes Shoplifting a Felony?
There are several factors that may result in a felony conviction for shoplifting, including:
- The stolen merchandise is valued at more than $500;
- The stolen merchandise is valued under $500, but it is the perpetrator’s fourth time committing a theft by shoplifting in Georgia;
- The perpetrator stole merchandise from three stores in one county over seven days or less, with the total value of the merchandise from each theft exceeding $500; or
- The perpetrator stole merchandise over a period of 180 days, and the combined value of the stolen merchandise for each theft is more than $500.
What Is the Penalty for a Felony Theft by Shoplifting Conviction in Georgia?
If a defendant is convicted of felony theft by shoplifting, they may face one to ten years in prison, criminal fines, or both. If the conviction is the defendant’s fourth, the first year of their sentence cannot be:
Can I Use a Defense in My Theft by Taking Charge in Georgia?
Yes, a defendant may be able to assert several affirmative defenses to have the charges against them reduced or dismissed entirely. The state is required to prove every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict an individual of the offense.
A defendant is considered innocent until they are proven guilty. One of the more important elements of the offense of theft by taking is the element of intent.
The prosecution is required to prove that the defendant took the goods or property with the criminal intent to deprive the owner of that property. In other words, simply walking away with another individual’s property would not be enough to convict them of a theft by taking because they did not have the required criminal intent.
Examples of other legal defenses that may have the charges brought against a defendant dismissed include:
- The individual had the owner’s permission to take the property or goods;
- The property at issue has no quantifiable value;
- The individual was mistaken as to the rightful owner of the property or believed the items were abandoned; or
- The individual was repossessing the items and not stealing the items.
Should I Contact a Criminal Lawyer About My Felony Shoplifting Charge?
If you have been charged with felony shoplifting in Georgia, it is essential to consult with a Georgia criminal lawyer because, in addition to harsh fines, a felony may affect more than just your criminal record. If convicted of a felony, you may also face issues with child custody and visitation, obtaining future employment, and owning firearms.