What Are The Theft Laws in Georgia?
Everyone knows what theft is, but not everyone understands how the legal system defines it. Like all states, Georgia’s laws lay out clear-cut definitions of what constitutes theft.
If you’ve had no involvement with the legal system before, you may be surprised to learn that acts like theft, though seemingly simple, get broken down and categorized into multiple crimes, each treated and penalized differently. If you’re facing theft charges yourself, the specifics can quickly become very confusing.
To help you develop a better understanding of what can be a complex matter, we’ve outlined the different ways Georgia defines and punishes theft below. Though detailed, this article is by no means comprehensive. While this article will help you understand Georgia theft laws, for legal counsel you should always contact a skilled criminal defense attorney.
How Does Georgia Law Define Theft?
We have to broaden the standard definition of theft before exploring it in the greater context of Georgia law. The state has specified five different categories of theft:
What differentiates them is how the theft occurred.
Taking occurs under two circumstances. The first is when you physically take something unlawfully, like stealing a laptop from a busy coffee shop. Taking also occurs when you withhold property from someone who is legally entitled to it.
Extortion occurs when someone gives away their property or services under duress, like threats of violence or other action. The threat made doesn’t need to be physical to qualify. For example, it is still extortion to threaten to spread rumors about someone if they don’t give you what you want.
Theft by deception involves tricking someone into giving you something under false pretenses. Typical examples are telephone and email scams. Deception can take place with or without coercion.
Georgia defines shoplifting in a much broader sense than most people are used to. Besides stealing merchandise from a merchant, it also includes altering price tags or switching items between packages before purchasing.
Of the five, conversion is perhaps the most complicated. Conversion requires someone given control of a property under an agreement using it in violation of that arrangement. So, for example, if someone gives you money to pay their bills, but you use it for your own expenses instead, this is considered conversion.
How Does Georgia Punish Theft?
Theft, like any other crime, can be a misdemeanor or felony. Misdemeanors are any crime punishable by incarceration for a year or less. Longer punishments are felonies and carry a fine of up to $100,000. The state allows judges to charge felonies as misdemeanors in certain circumstances.
However, because theft rarely happens in isolation from other crimes, you must keep in mind there will likely be additional charges. Deception often occurs in tandem with fraud, for example. Additionally, some types of theft carry additional penalties.
Let’s focus on how misdemeanor and felony theft are defined. The distinction is made based on the value of the stolen goods. However, previous theft convictions alter the sentence further.
Georgia treats theft as a misdemeanor if the value of stolen goods or services is $1,500 or less. In addition to incarceration, a conviction carries a $1,000 fine. However, if you have a record of previous misdemeanor thefts, the sentencing judge has the option to charge the offense as a felony.
Shoplifting, however, follows its own set of guidelines. If the value of the stolen goods is over $500, it becomes a felony. Shoplifting also carries potential civil liabilities.
There are specific circumstances that are automatic felonies. These include:
- Theft of a firearm or explosive
- Robbing a grave or memorial
- Theft by the deception of a senior citizen (65 years or older) valued at $500 or more
- Theft by extortion
- Theft using telecommunications
- Theft from three or more stores in the same country over three days
Despite all being felonies, each circumstance has different sentencing guidelines for incarceration.
It’s also important to note that Georgia law has additional punishments for repeat felony convictions. Second and later felony convictions automatically result in the maximum sentence for that crime. After four felonies, there is no parole eligibility.
Turn to Andrew Schwartz Law for Help
Georgia takes theft very seriously. Automatic sentencing for repeat convictions means that your first offense carries a great deal of pressure. You risk receiving incredibly harsh punishment without a skilled criminal lawyer representing your case.
That’s why you need attorney Andrew L. Schwartz P.C. on your side.
Whether you’re facing a misdemeanor or felony, an experienced and dedicated criminal defense attorney like Andrew Schwartz can make a world of difference. As a former prosecutor, Andrew Schwartz has an incredible depth of knowledge regarding criminal defense strategies and will fight to get you the best possible outcome.
Don’t take chances with your choice of a criminal defense lawyer. Instead, reach out to us today for a free consultation.