Shoplifting 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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