What You Need to Know About Georgia Shoplifting Laws
“I want that.”
This phrase alone is the most common motive behind shoplifting. A crime beyond desperation or needs and into the territory of greed and wants, shoplifting can have severe consequences including probation, fines, and jail time.
According to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention, more than 27 million people have shoplifted in the United States. That’s 1 in every 11 people.
Each state maintains its own definition and laws regarding shoplifting. As a criminal offense in the state of Georgia, shoplifting is taken very seriously in a court of law.
Georgia Shoplifting Law
In a basic definition, shoplifting is viewed as an act of theft of merchandise in a retail establishment. However, the state of Georgia handles shoplifting differently and with its own set of regulations, diving deeper than the umbrella term of theft.
“A person commits the offense of theft by shoplifting when he alone or in concert with another person, with the intent of appropriating merchandise to his own use without paying for the same or to deprive the owner of possession thereof or of the value thereof, in whole or in part.”
Georgia shoplifting laws prohibit the following:
- Concealing or taking possession of goods or merchandise of any store or retail establishment
- Altering the price tag or other price marking on goods or merchandise of any store or retail establishment
- Transferring the goods or merchandise of any store or retail establishment from one container to another
- Interchanging the label or price tag from one item of merchandise with a label or price tag for another item of merchandise
- Wrongfully causes the amount paid to be less than the merchant’s stated price for the merchandise
Georgia’s shoplifting laws expand upon the standard idea that shoplifting only involves stealing a retail item from a store or establishment.
There are several points regarding Georgia shoplifting laws that those convicted of shoplifting in Georgia should know.
Penalties for Shoplifting in Georgia
In Georgia, prior convictions and the retail amount are considerable factors when charged with shoplifting. Depending on these factors, you may face a wide range of legal penalties.
With the first shoplifting conviction and less than $500 in stolen merchandise, you may face a misdemeanor charge, a fine up to $1,000, and one year in prison.
With the second shoplifting conviction and less than $500 in stolen merchandise, you may face a misdemeanor charge, a minimum fine of $500, and a possible prison sentence.
With the third shoplifting conviction and less than $500 in stolen merchandise, you may face a misdemeanor charge as with the first two convictions. However, you will spend a minimum of 30 days in prison or 120 days in confinement in a probation detention center or diversion program. Sentencing may also require a psychological evaluation.
With the fourth shoplifting conviction, you face a felony charge regardless of the monetary amount of merchandise stolen. You will spend a minimum of one year in prison (with a maximum of ten years).
With a shoplifting conviction involving more than $500 in stolen merchandise, you face a felony charge and one to ten years in prison, even if it is your first shoplifting conviction.
Merchants in the state of Georgia can also sue convicted shoplifters in civil court for compensatory damages that would include the value of the merchandise stolen as well as any other related loss or damages.
What to Do If You Have Been Charged With Shoplifting
Misdemeanor shoplifting leaves a convicted individual with a few options to avoid the criminal conviction on your permanent record (provided that it is your first offense).
Probation and diversion programs may be available as a plea offer during pretrial, helping you to avoid prosecution in court. Other conditions may also be set during pretrial or in a courtroom. Completing community service or paying a fine may be required.
If you successfully complete the terms of your plea offer, criminal charges may be dismissed. While the shoplifting record won’t necessarily be expunged, completion of plea offer conditions may make your record eligible for record concealment.
Georgia attorneys are familiar with the option to complete a diversion program. However, if you’re heading into the courtroom, knowing the right defenses to shoplifting may help your case.
Removing merchandise from a display is not considered shoplifting.
Lack of intent, such as being distracted by your child or another distraction that caused you to walk out of the store unintentionally, your defense attorney could use that to negate the theft/shoplifting crime.
Intending to pay for the merchandise can also be used as a defense argument. You can argue that you never intended to steal the item and intended to pay for it. Thorough and legitimate surveillance evidence could prove beneficial in trying to strengthen your defense and win your case.
Criminal Defense Attorney Andrew L. Schwartz
If you have been charged with shoplifting in Marietta, Georgia, look no further than Criminal Defense Attorney Andrew L. Schwartz.
Dedicated to defending the rights and freedom of those accused of serious felony or misdemeanor crimes, Schwartz will take the time to out-prepare the prosecution and explain the criminal law process to you every step of the way.
Contact Andrew L. Schwartz today for a no-obligation, free legal consultation.