What you need to know about theft crimes in Georgia
Being charged with a theft crime can be a terrifying experience. Especially for first-time offenders, being arrested, possibly jailed and charged with a crime can be jarring. And the arrest and charge are just the beginning.
You might not know the different types of theft crime charges or the penalties involved with a conviction. Most importantly, you probably don’t know how you can defend yourself. Will you go to jail? What kind of fines will you have to pay? Is there any way to get charges reduced or dropped?
The first step is to understand the basics of theft crimes in Georgia. Talking to an experienced criminal defense lawyer will be critical to minimizing the penalties of this type of criminal charge.
Types of theft crimes in Georgia
Generally, a theft crime in Georgia is called a Theft by Taking. According to Georgia Code § 16-8-1, you have committed a theft by taking if you unlawfully take or appropriate someone else of their property.
This general crime definition includes all types of illegal taking, which can include theft by deception or theft by shoplifting.
Theft by deception
Theft by deception occurs when someone obtains someone else’s property, with the intention of depriving that person of ownership of the property, using deception.
Deception in this crime can include:
- Creating or confirming an impression of fact that the accused knows is false
- Failing to correct someone’s false impression of a fact
- Hiding information or preventing someone from obtaining information relevant to the property involved in the crime
- Transferring property known to be encumbered and intentionally failing to disclose the fact of the encumbrance (this can include a lien or other impediment on the property)
- In exchange for money or other property, making promises with no intention of performing these promises (the promises can involve exchange of products or services)
It is important to remember that these examples of deception are not necessarily crimes in their own right, but are only crimes when they are performed as part of a theft or other related crime.
Theft by shoplifting
Theft by shoplifting generally involves taking cash or merchandise from a store and retail outlet. This can include:
- Concealing merchandise in a store
- Changing the cost of an item on its price tag or exchanging labels from one item to another
- Changing containers in order to get a lower price
- Finding some other illegal way of paying less for an item than what the store is trying to sell the item for
Most of these shoplifting examples are relatively clear, but not everyone knows that doing something like switching price tags to save a couple dollars is considered a shoplifting crime. And the penalties for these crimes can be severe.
Penalties for theft crimes in Georgia
A theft crime can be considered either a misdemeanor or felony. All things being equal (no previous convictions or other aggravating factors), theft crimes involving $500 or less will bring misdemeanor charges, and those involving more than $500 will be charged as felonies.
A misdemeanor can result in up to a year in jail and fines.
A felony can result in anywhere between one year in jail and 10 years in jail, as well as fines.
How to defend yourself against theft crime charges in Georgia
Even a misdemeanor theft crime in Georgia can bring up to a year in jail, so it is important to defend yourself aggressively against these charges. The first thing you should do is contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer who knows how to fight for your freedom.
There are a few possibilities for defending yourself against these charges, including:
- Attacking the evidence: If the police violated your rights in some way or obtained evidence illegally, a good attorney can use this to get the charges dropped or to eliminate all evidence against you.
- Ownership: If you had a good reason to think you actually owned the property in question, this could be used as a positive defense against the charges.
- Intoxication: An essential element of a theft crime is intent. For a conviction, the accused had to have intended to commit the theft, knowing it was a theft. If we can show that you were intoxicated at the time of the crime, it might be a successful defense.
- Entrapment: If you were lured into committing the crime for the purpose of prosecuting you for the crime, that is called entrapment and can used as a defense against theft crime charges.
These are just a few examples of how to defend yourself against theft crime charges. There is no one right answer or one foolproof approach. The most important thing you can do is hire a legal team you can trust to mount a strong defense on your behalf.