It is important to first note that the exact legal definition of theft varies from state to state. However, in general, the legal act of theft is defined as intentionally removing or otherwise taking possession or control of someone else’s property, without first obtaining that person’s consideration or consent.
In the state of Georgia there are numerous different forms of theft, including theft by deception, theft by shoplifting, theft by conversion, and theft by taking. Theft by taking is one of the most common forms of theft in the state of Georgia.
Theft by taking, otherwise referred to as larceny in most other states, is defined in the Model Penal Code for criminal conduct in the state of Georgia as the criminal act of taking anything of value from another person coupled with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of that good or property.
Specifically, the Georgia Code Section 16-8-2 states that a person commits the offense of theft by taking when the person:
“[U]nlawfully takes or, being in lawful possession thereof, unlawfully appropriates any property of another with the intention of depriving him of the property, regardless of the manner in which the property is taken or appropriated.”
As far as what constitutes depriving an owner of their property, Georgia Code also provides a definition for the term deprive. In short, deprive means to withhold the property of another party permanently, temporarily, or to dispose of the property in a way that makes it unlikely the original owner of the goods or property will recover it.
As a criminal act in the state of Georgia, theft by taking can result in criminal penalties if a person that is charged with theft by taking is convicted. Additionally, theft by taking may be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony crime in the state of Georgia, mostly dependent on the value of the goods or property that was taken.
However, in order for an individual that is charged with theft by taking to be convicted, the state prosecution must prove that they are guilty of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
When Is Theft by Taking a Felony in Georgia?
As mentioned above, the criminal act of theft by taking in Georgia may either be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Once again whether or not theft by taking is a misdemeanor crime or felony under Georgia laws will be dependent on the value of the property or goods that has allegedly been taken.
The Georgia Code states that any person who commits the criminal act of theft by taking goods valued at over $500 in value may receive a felony charge. This means that felony theft by taking in Georgia is the taking of another person’s property or goods valued at over $500, without their permission, coupled with the intent to permanently deprive the original owner of said goods or property.
If an individual is charged with felony theft by taking, then they can expect criminal penalties of imprisonment between one and ten years, criminal fines of more than $1,000, or a combination of both.
Additionally, repeat or habitual offenders, or offenders that commit theft by taking in other special circumstances may receive harsher penalties. For example, individuals who commit theft by taking as a bank or government employee may receive up to 15 years in prison.
As far as determining the value of the property that was taken, the Georgia Code provides that the value of the property is the fair cash market value either at the time and place of the theft or any stage during which the thief had possession.
However, the Court may also take notice of other evidence regarding the value of the property, such as testimony from the original owner, common knowledge of the value of the property, or other evidence that tends to quantify the value of the property.
What If the Stolen Property Is Less than $5,000?
Once again, if an individual commits the crime of theft by taking by stealing the property of another person valued at less than $5,000, then they will receive a misdemeanor charge in the state of Georgia.
Importantly, it must be proven that an individual committed the criminal act of theft by taking beyond a reasonable doubt in order for them to be convicted of misdemeanor theft by taking.
What Is the Punishment If the Judge Sentences Me to a Misdemeanor?
Defendants that are found guilty of misdemeanor theft by taking can expect criminal penalties that include fines of up to $1,000, imprisonment of up to one year in local jail, or a combination of both.
Additionally, it is important to note that the criminal court judge has the discretion to lower the penalties outlined in the Georgia Code during the criminal sentencing phase. This means that a judge may issue an alternative form of criminal sentencing, such as community service or probation, rather than sentencing an individual to imprisonment.
Can I Use a Defense in My Theft by Taking Charge in Georgia?
In short, yes, an individual may assert a variety of affirmative defenses in order to have the charges brought against them either dismissed completely or lessened. Once again, the state prosecution must prove each and every element of the crime of theft by taking beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict an individual of the crime.
This is because an individual is considered innocent until proven guilty. One of the most important elements of the crime of theft by taking is the intent element. The state prosecution must prove that the individual that took the property or goods had the criminal intent to deprive the rightful owner of that piece of property. This means that simply walking away with another person’s property is not enough to convict them of theft by taking, as in that situation there is no criminal intent present.
Examples of other common legal defenses that may have the charges brought against an individual dismissed include:
- The individual had the owner’s permission to take the property or goods;
- The property in question has no quantifiable value;
- The individual was mistaken as to the rightful owner of the property, or believed the items were abandoned; and/or
- The individual was repossessing the items, and not stealing the items.
Do I Need a Criminal Lawyer to Help Me with My Case?
If you have been accused of the crime of theft by taking, it is in your best interest to immediately consult with an experienced and local Georgia criminal lawyer. An experienced and local criminal defense attorney will be best suited to helping you understand your legal rights and options according to your state’s laws.
An experienced Georgia criminal lawyer will be able to help you build your best legal defense, and help you assert any affirmative defenses that may be available in your case. Additionally, an attorney will also be able to help you negotiate with the prosecution in order to have the charges brought against you dismissed, if possible. Additionally, an experienced Georgia criminal attorney will also be able to represent you at any in person criminal proceedings.