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Georgia Shoplifting Laws and Penalties

Georgia has some of the toughest shoplifting laws in country.  The problems is, the laws are very confusing.  In this post I will try to explain Georgia’s shoplifting laws in an easy to understand way.

Shoplifting is common in Atlanta but the penalties are very tough.

Shoplifting is common in Atlanta but the penalties are very tough.

Definition of Shoplifting

While most people think of shoplifting as using “the five-fingered discount”, there are other acts which are also considered shoplifiting under the law such as changing the price tags or causing the price charged to be less than the price the retailer intended. Frankly speaking you face a greater punishment for shoplifting than in many other theft crimes, even if the shoplifting involved an item of very little value.

Georgia Shoplifting Penalties

The State of Georgia takes into account two factors when determining penalties for shoplifting, the value of the merchandise and the number of prior offenses.

If the merchandise is valued at less than $500, then the offense is considered a misdemeanor.  If it’s more than $500 then it is a felony.  The threshold was previously $300 but changed on July 1, 2012.

When considering the number of prior offenses, the sentencing is based solely on how many offenses were committed, regardless of whether they were misdemeanor shoplifting offenses or felonies.  For example, it would be considered a third offense if the defendant had two prior misdemeanors, two felonies, or a combination of the two.

The penalty range is set based on the factors above, however, the judge will use his/her discretion in issuing the penalty upon conviction.

The penalty ranges are listed in the table below:

Offense 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
Merchandise value under $500 Grade: Misdemeanor
Jail: up to 12 months
Fines: up to $1,000
Grade: Misdemeanor
Jail: up to 12 months
Fines: $250- $1,000
Grade: Misdemeanor
Jail: 30 days- 12 months
Fines: $250- $1,000
Grade: Felony
Jail: 1-10 years
Merchandise value $500 and above Grade: Felony
Jail: 1-10 years
Grade: Felony
Jail: 1-10 years
Grade: Felony
Jail: 1-10 years
Grade: Felony
Jail: 1-10 years

As you can see, even a first offense carries the potential for a heavy fine and possibly jail time.  What’s even more alarming is that regardless of the value of the merchandise taken, a fourth offense is deemed a felony.  Even if it is for a $1 cup of soda.

Additional Consequences

There are many additional consequences which can arise as a result of a shoplifting conviction especially for teenagers and young adults:

  1. The conviction will show up on your permanent criminal history
  2. You may be disqualified from certain scholarships
  3. Many companies will not consider you for employment
  4. You may face additional sanctions from your employer (e.g. school teachers, military personnel)

Important Note

With penalties this tough it is important that you get legal advice immediately.  There are many options to weigh and factors that must be considered before taking any steps.  Taking the wrong step can destroy any opportunity you may have at a defense.  For example, it is common practice for a merchant to issue a demand letter seeking damages from you sometimes with the “promise” of not pressing charges against you.  This is a complete lie.  Once the matter is in the hands of the police, the merchant has no authority to drop your charges.  Once more, paying the demand letter is considered as an admission of guilt and will destroy many of your defenses.  This is why you need to contact a professional criminal defense attorney who is experienced in theft and shoplifting cases.

Attorney Chanco has served as a prosecutor and as a defense attorney.  He has prosecuted shoplifting cases as well as defended them. He knows both sides of the law.  This unique experience allows him to offer a knowledgeable and thorough defense of your case. Call today for a free consultation, 1-855-9-ATL-DUI.

Atlanta DUI Attorney and Criminal Defense Lawyer Douglas B. Chanco is an experienced and dedicated trial lawyer offering personalized legal services in Atlanta, Sandy Springs, Roswell, Marietta as well as Fulton, Gwinnett, Dekalb Counties. A former Fulton County Prosecutor, Attorney Chanco possess exceptional trial skills and is ready to fight your DUI and criminal case. Learn More About Atlanta DUI Lawyers, Laws and Penalties
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