A number of retailers in Georgia including Home Depot, Kohls, Publix, and Walmart initiate shoplifting cases against individuals on a daily basis. An individual charged with shoplifting might be detained prior to walking out the door of the store or might be arrested days later if the individual’s identity was not discovered until after the individual left the store premises, Shoplifting charges in the state of Georgia occur in particularly heavy volume throughout the Atlanta area. While these types of charges can be particularly frustrating for individuals, there are fortunately many ways that talented legal counsel can help individual resolve theft charges. Individuals facing such charges should also understand some of the key details about these charges.
Statistics about Shoplifting
The statistics concerning shoplifting reveal that this practice is more common than many individuals believe. One in every eleven individuals are reported to shoplift et least one item during the course of their life time. About seventy five percent of the individuals who are charged with shoplifting are adults, while the rest are children or teens. Statistics further indicate that three quarters of the individual who shoplift went into the store with the intention of taking an item. While many individuals cite a troubled financial climate as the cause of shoplifting, other individuals shoplift due to either the thrill of performing a prohibited activity or in response to pressure from peers.
Applicable Georgia Law
There are several laws in the state of Georgia that determine how shoplifting charges are made.
First, it is important for individuals to understand that shoplifting in the state of Georgia is defined as performing certain actions with the intent of permanently taking merchandise without either paying for the merchandise of depriving the owner of possession of the merchandise or its value.
More specifically, Georgia prohibits four particular cases when an individual is: altering the price tag or other price marking on property inside a store, concealing or taking possession of property belonging to a store, transferring the goods of a store from one container to another, or interchanging the labels or price tag between pieces of merchandises.
Although many individuals believe that charges are only raised once an individual has left a store, individuals who are charged with these offenses are sometimes still within a store. While loss prevention officers are permitted to use reasonable force and methods to protect a store and its merchandise, these officers do not possess the power to overuse force or threats to an individual.
Some individuals worry about accidentally shoplifting, but these charges almost always result in individuals only being required to reimburse the store for any lost earnings.
Georgia recognizes a type of shoplifting charge referred to as a “smash and grab” incident. These types of events involve a quick theft where a display case, door, or window is broken and merchandise grabbed shortly before the offending individual flees the scene. In the state of Georgia, smash and grab cases are treated more severely than other types of shoplifting offenses.
Resulting Penalties for Shoplifting
Shoplifting in the state of Georgia can be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on details like the value of the items stolen. In addition to facing criminal penalties including jail time and fines, individuals can also be held liable to merchants for resulting damages. The exact penalties that result from shoplifting break into the following categories:
- Shoplifting property with a total combined value of $300 or less. This misdemeanor results in individual convicted of a first time offense facing fines up to one thousand dollars and one year in jail. An individual who is charged with a second offense will face a mandatory minimum fine of two hundred fifty dollars and up to one thousand dollars as well as one year in jail. An individual who has previously been convicted of two shoplifting charges faces fines up to one thousand dollars, a mandatory minimum of thirty days in prison or one hundred twenty days in a rehabilitation facility. Individuals who have been convicted of three previous shoplifting offenses will be charged with a felony that can result in fines at the court’s discretion, between one to ten years in jail.
- Shoplifting property with a total combined value of more than $300. This felony, results in individuals who are charged with even a first time offense with fines at the court’s discretion and between one to ten years in jail.
- Shoplifting property from three separate stores within one county during a period of seven days or less with the property from each store totaling more than $100. This felony results in several potential penalties including fines at the court’s discretion and between one to ten years in jail.
For the purposes of these crimes, the value of goods stolen are determined by using the highest reasonable price for the property.
Available Defenses to Shoplifting Charges
There are several types of defenses that are capable of successfully responding to shoplifting charges. In some cases individuals are able to raise a defense of mistaken identity by arguing that another individual is actually guilty of committing the theft of shoplifting. Other times, individuals are able to argue they lacked the intent to shoplift and accidentally walked out of a store without first paying for a store’s property. In order to raise a successful defense, individuals often find the assistance of skilled legal counsel who can review all important elements about an offense and create the strong possible defense essential.
Obtain the Services of a Skilled Georgia Attorney
If an individual has been arrested for shoplifting, it is an extremely wise idea to write down exactly how events transpired. If you or a loved has been charged with shoplifting in the state of Georgia, it is a wise idea to contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Legal counsel at Yeargan, Barber & Kert can help create a strong legal strategy, negotiate a plea bargain, and explore other potential options for reaching the best possible defense and the best resulting consequences.