According to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention, approximately 27 million people shoplift or have shoplifted in the U.S. That breaks down to about 1 out of every 11 Americans, and they estimate that 75% are adults. For many, shoplifting can seem like it’s no big deal, but the truth is that shoplifting is a criminal offense that the Georgia courts take seriously.
This is how shoplifting is defined by Georgia law (O.C.G.A. § 16-8-14). Georgia shoplifting laws prohibit:
(1) Concealing or taking possession of goods or merchandise of any store or retail establishment;
(2) Altering the price tag or other price marking on goods or merchandise of any store or retail establishment;
(3) Transferring the goods or merchandise of any store or retail establishment from one container to another;
(4) Interchanging the label or price tag from one item of merchandise with a label or price tag for another item of merchandise
Every year, we deal with many clients who are facing charges related to shoplifting. Many of them are confused about their arrest or the charges being brought against them because they believed these common myths.
Myth: Shoplifting in Georgia isn’t a major crime.
Truth: While of course there are crimes that carry a more significant punishment, shoplifting can be considered a felony, which has a major impact on your current life and future goals. If the item(s) stolen have a combined value of $500 or less, you will likely be facing a misdemeanor crime. However, if the combined value is more than $500, if you have shoplifted from three separate properties within one county within a period of seven days, or if this is not your first offense, you may be facing felony charges.
Myth: You must leave the store to be charged with shoplifting.
Truth: Georgia law doesn’t require you to leave the premises of the store to be charged with shoplifting. The carefully worded law prohibits concealing goods or merchandise, altering tags, changing packaging, and switching price tags. If a loss prevention officer sees you doing any of these things, you will be facing serious charges.
Myth: You’ll only face a fine when caught shoplifting in Georgia.
Truth: Whether you’re charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, your sentencing may include jail time. According to the law, a first offense misdemeanor for shoplifting may carry fines of up to $1,000 and up to one year in jail. If you are found guilty of a first offense felony for shoplifting, the fines are at the court’s discretion and you may be facing between one and ten years in jail. The punishments for multiple offenses vary, but become increasingly harsh.
Are You Facing Shoplifting Charges?
If you are facing shoplifting charges in Georgia, we can help. Criminal defense attorneys Pat McDonough and Trinity Hundredmark are some of the state’s most respected and sought-after defense lawyers. At Andersen, Tate and Carr, our goal is to ensure the best possible outcome for you and your family, no matter what the circumstances of your case. Call our office at 770-822-0900 for more information or to request a case evaluation.