Shoplifting results in billions of dollars in losses for businesses in the United States alone. This causes retail prices to increase as businesses struggle to make up for losses in revenue.
A shoplifting conviction can lead to serious consequences including imprisonment and hefty fines. Understanding Georgia’s shoplifting laws and knowing the options you have to protect your rights are the first steps to fighting a shoplifting charge.
Consulting with an experienced attorney gives you the information and strategies you need when presenting your case in a court of law.
Shoplifting in Georgia
Georgia state laws define shoplifting as any action that demonstrates an intent to take merchandise without providing payment or depriving business owners of the merchandise or its value.
Changing labels and price tags, moving items into other containers, or changing the amount charged for an item so that it’s less than the actual retailer’s price are all considered shoplifting under Georgia law.
Whether a shoplifting charge is classified as a felony or misdemeanor depends on the circumstances related to each case. The value of the stolen items and the use of aggravated force can increase the severity of a shoplifting crime.
Individuals charged with shoplifting may be held liable for civil damages as well, further adding to the severity of the punishments that you can face if convicted.
Shoplifting Penalties in Georgia
If the value of stolen merchandise is equal to or less than $300, the shoplifting charge is classified as a misdemeanor, and you could face up to a year in jail with fines reaching up to $1,000.
If you have a previous shoplifting conviction, the penalties include a mandatory minimum fine of $250 and a maximum of one year in jail.
Two previous convictions can lead to a minimum prison sentence of 30 days with a one-year maximum. You may also face 120 days under house arrest or in a correctional facility along with undergoing psychological evaluation and treatment.
Three or more previous shoplifting convictions can result in up to ten years in jail, and the courts will determine fines at their own discretion.
The charge will also be upgraded to a felony, and this applies to shoplifting charges relating to merchandise valued at more than $300, regardless if there are any previous convictions.
Common defenses used include claims that the defendant had rightful ownership of the merchandise that was allegedly taken, the lack of intent, and a wrongful accusation based on mistaken identity.
Protecting Your Rights in Georgia’s Courts
Having the best legal resources at your disposal is essential to avoiding a conviction in Georgia’s courts. In addition to the penalties mentioned above, you may be sued by the merchants who claim to have had their merchandise stolen by you.
Georgia’s shoplifting laws entitle merchants to compensatory damages, legal costs, and other losses. This can put you at a greater financial risk and requires you to present a stronger case in your defense.
Your attorney can help you achieve this goal by reviewing all of the facts related to your case while gathering important evidence that supports your claims.
If you’re facing a shoplifting charge, you should take the time to document your account of what occurred and contact an attorney as soon as you can.
The earlier you can begin to prepare your case, the greater the likelihood that you’ll achieve the outcome you want.
The right attorney will help you explore all of your legal options and ensures that your rights are fully protected under the law.