Defenses to a Georgia Shoplifting Charge
Shoplifting is one of the most commonly charged criminal offenses in Georgia, so it’s a good idea for residents to have a good understanding of what such a charge, or subsequent conviction entails. Fortunately, being charged with a criminal offense doesn’t mean that a person will be convicted. In fact, there are a number of strong defenses to shoplifting charges that defendants can raise on their behalf.
What Qualifies as Shoplifting?
Under Georgia law, a person can be convicted of shoplifting if prosecutors can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused concealed or took possession of a store’s merchandise with either:
- The intent of keeping that merchandise for his or her own use and without paying; or
- The intent of depriving the owner of possession of the item(s) in question.
A person can also be charged with shoplifting for altering the price tag or switching labels on an item, using deception to pay less than the stated price for a product, and even transferring goods from one container to another. Unfortunately, with such a broad definition, many innocent people are unfairly accused of shoplifting in Georgia.
What are the Penalties for Shoplifting?
The short answer to this question is “it depends.” The kinds of penalties that a person convicted of shoplifting faces will depend on a couple of different factors, including:
- The value of the merchandise that was allegedly taken; and
- Whether the accused has been charged with shoplifting in the past.
For instance, a first-time offender who is accused of stealing merchandise worth less than $500 will likely face a misdemeanor charge, which could still end up meaning up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Someone who is accused of taking more than $500 worth of merchandise, however, can expect to face felony charges, as can someone who allegedly:
- Committed a fourth or subsequent shoplifting offense; or
- Took more than $500 worth of goods from three or more stores in a single county in a period of seven or fewer days.
Felony convictions are much more serious, with a sentence of at least one, but up to ten years in prison.
What are the Defenses to a Shoplifting Charge?
Because the penalties for a shoplifting conviction are so serious, those who have been accused of this crime should take steps to mount a strong defense, which could include:
- Proving that they had no intent to take the items without paying, but did so as a result of a mistake or oversight;
- Proving that they are the victim of mistaken identity;
- Proving that they were coerced into making a false confession; and
- Demonstrating that there is insufficient evidence to prove fault beyond a reasonable doubt.
Someone accused of shoplifting could also avoid conviction by establishing that the merchandise that was allegedly taken was obtained through an illegal search or seizure. An experienced attorney will be well-versed in the types of defenses that can help a defendant avoid an unfair conviction for shoplifting.
An Experienced Cobb County Criminal Defense Attorney
Being accused of a theft offense like shoplifting can be frightening and potentially life changing. Fortunately, you don’t have to face these charges alone. For help defending yourself against unfair theft charges, please call experienced Cobb County shoplifting attorney Andrew L. Schwartz, P.C. at 678-853-2500. Reach out to our legal team to book your free consultation today.