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When Petty Theft Isn’t So Petty

Theft is one of the most common crimes that occur in society. There are different types of theft, and individuals are just as vulnerable to having their identities stolen as they are to have property taken.

Theft can involve high-value items as well as less expensive ones. This and other factors determine how the court’s view and ultimately punish those who are found guilty of theft.

State laws distinguish between different types of theft. In many cases, petty theft isn’t so petty, and the accused can often face severe penalties. Understanding petty theft and its potential consequences will help you address any charges you might face.

Determining Theft

Petty theft occurs when an individual steals something of a certain value in order to keep that item. It’s classified as a misdemeanor under Georgia law, and it typically involves the theft of an item with a value of $500 or less.

Petty theft can result in fines of up to $1,000 and prison sentences that last up to one year. Georgia law defines theft as the unlawful taking of another person’s property “with the intention of depriving him of the property.”

The manner in which personal property is taken doesn’t affect this definition, and there are many types of theft recognized by Georgia law.

These include the theft of services or mislaid property, the receipt of stolen property, transport of stolen property into the state, extortion, and shoplifting.

Defining Petty Theft

In addition to the value of the stolen property, petty theft is determined by factors that include the rights of possession of the victim, the movement of the stolen item, and the intent of the defendant.

The right to possess an item is important in petty theft cases. An individual may not own the property outright, but items that are borrowed or leased are still rightfully possessed by the person.

Also, property no longer must be physically moved to be considered stolen. If the defendant chose to exercise control over property, regardless of its transport, it can still be defined as theft.

Prosecutors must demonstrate that the defendant had the intention to deprive the victim of the property in question.

Penalties for Petty Theft

Although petty theft is considered a misdemeanor, there can be severe consequences that you need to be aware of. If convicted, you could face time in jail and thousands of dollars in fines.

First-time offenders may only be required to perform community service or attend a counseling program. But this depends on the unique circumstances related to each case.

Prior convictions may cause you to receive harsher penalties including a felony charge. This subjects defendants to the possibility of serving a sentence in state prison as well as the repercussions that result from having a felony on your record.

Defendants may also face civil lawsuits from the victims, which can lead to court decisions that award compensatory damage to the victims and can cause the defendant to incur additional legal costs.

Petty theft isn’t as petty as it might seem, and stealing property from another individual is a serious crime. Although the value of the property may influence the penalties that defendants face, previous convictions and other factors can lead to severe punishment.

Having the right legal support when facing a petty theft charge can help you avoid these and other consequences while ensuring that your rights are fully defended under Georgia law.

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