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Theft by shoplifting - O.C.G.A. § 16-8-14

Theft offenses are usually pretty straight forward. Crimes against property have been around so long, lawmakers usually can’t come up with any new and clever piece of legislation that hasn’t been around for decades. Nonetheless, they try. This is evidenced by the latter portions of the shoplifting statute. A good shoplifting attorney understands the nuances of this statute. The following are some things you should know.

First, you do not necessarily have to be the one actually taking the merchandise. The statute reads that you can be charged “alone or in concert with another person”.

As is usually the case, you must have “the intent of appropriating merchandise” to your “use without paying for the same”

Or you must “deprive the owner of possession thereof or of the value thereof”

You can manifest these statutory requirements by:

1)     Concealing or otherwise taking possession of the item

Note: It’s very common for stores to hear the story “I had just put it in my bag. I was going to pay for it.” This excuse is one of the oldest in the book. It may get you off the hook but, you’re probably just as likely to be arrested.

2)     Altering or changing the price tag

Note: The falls under the attempt to deprive the owner of the value of the property. Even if you intended to pay for it, you’re trying to avoid paying the stated price for the item.

3)     Moving goods from one container to another

Note: This is similar to changing/altering price tags if it’s done in order to get a lower price than the stated price.

4)     Or otherwise somehow cause the price to be paid to be less than the merchant’s stated price for the property.

Note: I suppose this is the catch-all provision in case you’re cleverer than the State Assemblyman authoring the laws.

If the value of the property is less than $500, it’s a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $1,000 fine plus court costs. Also, you’ll likely receive a 12 month probated sentence.

For a second misdemeanor conviction, regardless of whether the 1st conviction was a felony or misdemeanor, the minimum fine increases to $500. On the first offense, there is no minimum fine. As such, I’ve seen them as low as $200.

For your third misdemeanor conviction for shoplifting, regardless of whether the 1st and 2nd convictions were felonies or misdemeanors, you’ll be facing a minimum of 30 days in a probation detention center or 120 days house arrest. The incarceration may not be suspended or withheld. Furthermore, you’ll be required to submit to psychological evaluation and treatment, at your own cost.

For a fourth arrest for misdemeanor shoplifting, regardless of whether the previous 3 convictions were misdemeanors or felonies, you’ll be charged with a felony and, if convicted, facing 1 to 10 years in prison.

And, of course, whenever the value exceeds $500, it’s a felony punishable by 1 to 10 years in prison.

The statute goes further. Let’s say the person happens to steal from 3 separate establishments within a 7 day period. If it happens within the same county, and the aggregate total of the stolen goods exceeds $500, it’ll count as 1 felony. This is designed to catch those who happen to go on a weekend shoplifting spree from multiple stores.

Finally, if, during a 180 day period, a person steals more than $500 in aggregate value from 1 establishment, that too equates to 1 felony offense. This is obviously designed to severely punish the repeat offenders who keep returning to the same establishment, over and over, and finally get caught.

Misdemeanor shoplifting is an offense several counties and municipalities offer a Pretrial Intervention and Diversion Program for. Please view my article at: for more information on such programs. Usually, you will need to hire a criminal defense attorney for entry into such programs.

If you, or someone you know, have been charged with shoplifting, they may need an attorney. Please feel free to contact me. I can be reached at 770-729-4809 or by email at [email protected]

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