Georgia code section 16-8-14 addresses shoplifting. In Georgia, shoplifting items $500.00 or less is generally a misdemeanor that carries up to $1000 fine and/or one year in jail. It can also be a felony depending on your record and other circumstances. Shoplifting can come in many forms. The act of shoplifting is committed when a person (or people) appropriate merchandise for their own use without paying for it, or they take the item from its rightful owner.
Acts that are considered shoplifting include:
- Concealing or taking possession of the goods or merchandise of any store or retail establishment
- Altering the price tag/price marking on goods or merchandise of any store or retail establishment
- Transferring the goods or merchandise of any store or retail establishment from one container to another
- Interchanging the label or the price tag from one item with another
- Wrongfully causing the amount paid to be less than the merchant’s stated price for the merchandise
Most people think of shoplifting as someone walking into a store, taking something off the shelf, sticking it into their pocket, and walking out without paying. This, however, is not always the case. Sometimes, intent to shoplift can be enough evidence to get someone convicted of shoplifting. In the 1990 Mathis v. State case 194 Ga. App. 498, 391 S.E.2d 130 the defendant told the cashier up front that he had already paid for the items at the butcher’s counter in the back of the store. The manager took the customer (who carried the items with him) to the counter, where the manager was told that the customer had not paid for the items. There was enough evidence to support a shoplifting conviction because the defendant walked around the store while “taking possession of the goods” with the intent of appropriating them without paying for them.
Another form of shoplifting that people might not realize is altering and/or interchanging price tags. Alteringthe price tag means that someone changed the number on the price tag, whether that was by scratching out a number, or marking the tag to change the number. Interchangingthe price tag means that someone took the price tag from a cheaper item and switched it out with the item they were attempting to shoplift.
Although there are many different forms of shoplifting, to be convicted, a person essentially has to be caught in the act. In the 1984 case Lane v. State, 170 Ga. App. 42, 316 S.E.2d 31 the defendant was arrested in her car on in the parking lot of a store. In her car, she was sitting on her purse that was filled with items from the store. All of the items still had price tags on them, but she had no receipts. The woman had come to the store with another person, who had been caught in the act while shoplifting, and that person told the police that the defendant had been shoplifting too. There was no evidence that the defendant was shoplifting, or even that she had gotten those items from that exact store. There was also no testimony that the items she had were stolen. Just because there were still price tags on the items and she didn’t have any receipts did not mean that she was guilty of shoplifting.
If you are accused of shoplifting or another crime in Georgia, there may be serious consequences. Contact experienced criminal defense attorney Thomas Nagel at (404) 255-1600 or via our online form.