Articles Posted in Shoplifting

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Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 10.51.01 AM.pngShoplifting is illegal in Georgia. Shoplifting can be charged when the defendant performed actions with the intent of taking merchandise without paying or of depriving the owner of possession of merchandise or its value. Shoplifting includes altering price tags, switching labels, transferring merchandise between containers, or otherwise causing less to be paid for a particular item. It can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on how much was stolen and whether there were any aggravating circumstances.

In a recent appellate decision, a Georgia jury found the defendant guilty of shoplifting. The defendant had entered guilty pleas in four earlier shoplifting cases, and the government presented these so that it could ask for recidivist punishment under OCGA § 16-8-14 (b)(1)(C). Under this code section, when somebody is convicted of a fourth or subsequent shoplifting offense, and the earlier convictions were either misdemeanors or felonies or a combination, the defendant commits a felony and must be punished with imprisonment for 1-10 years without suspending or deferring the first year of the sentence. The defendant is considered a recidivist or repeat offender and sentenced accordingly. In this case, the trial court sentenced the defendant as a recidivist.

The defendant appealed. He argued that he shouldn’t have been sentenced as a recidivist because the government didn’t establish he had waived his right to counsel in two of the prior shoplifting convictions.
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There is a general misconception that in order to be charged with the offense of theft by shoplifting in the State of Georgia that you have to leave the store in order to be charged with shoplifting. The crime of shoplifting does not require one to exit the store. There are five different scenarios which are considered shoplifting in Georgia. These include concealing or taking possession of merchandise, altering the price tag, transferring merchandise from one container to another, changing the price tag or label of one item with another item, and wrongfully causing the amount paid to be less than the stores price listed for the item. O.C.G.A. § 16-8-14
If the value of the shoplifted items is $499.99 or less, the law treats this as a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of a $1,000.00 fine and 12 months in jail. If the value is $500.00 or more, it is considered a felony punishable by 1-10 years. A third offense carries mandatory jail time. A fourth offense is considered a felony with a mandatory one year in prison even if the offense was of a misdemeanor level. The Georgia Court of Appeals has held that a ten-year sentence for a fourth offense shoplifting was not excessive.

There are many ways to defend shoplifting cases. As an experienced criminal defense attorney, I can maximize your options when facing shoplifting charges. I have represented many individuals who were facing fourth offense shoplifting charges who avoided being prosecuted for felony charges thereby avoiding the mandatory one year in prison. In many case I have been able to negotiate a dismissal of charges and expungement or restriction of their arrest record. This will make a huge difference when applying for employment.
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