Theft and Robbery Charges
Theft charges in Georgia can range from shoplifting to residential burglary to armed robbery.
In Georgia, a shoplifting charge is known as theft by shoplifting. There are several actions that can be considered shoplifting, beyond taking something from a store without paying. If you conceal an item or switch what items are in a container, you can also be charged with shoplifting. If you alter a price tag or switch price tags so that you pay less for an item, this can also be considered shoplifting. There is no requirement that you have to leave the store in order to be charged with shoplifting. Refund fraud it is also treated like shoplifting, even though it has a separate statute.
First time shoplifting of items with a total value less than $500 is considered a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor in Georgia carries a maximum of 12 months in jail and a $1000 fine. If it is your first time shoplifting, your attorney may be able to get you into a diversion program that can result in the charges against you being dismissed.
If you are accused of shoplifting from 3 or more stores within 7 days (in one county), or if items taken over 180 days where the total amount shoplifting exceeds $500, then you may be facing a felony charge with a sentence of 1 to 10 years (on probation or in custody or any combination of the two).
With a second conviction of shoplifting (even as a misdemeanor), you will be required to pay a $500 fine in addition to the possibility of 12 months in jail or on probation (or any combination of the two). With a third conviction, the judge is required to give a minimum sentence of 30 days in jail (or 120 days of house arrest or detention facility like a work release program.) A fourth conviction of shoplifting will be treated as a felony (with the 1 to 10 year sentence) regardless of the value of the items shoplifted.
Other Types of Theft Charges
Theft by Taking is unlawfully taking property from another (permanently or temporarily, or in a way where the owner is unable to recover it.) Its similar to shoplifting except that it doesn't involve a store.
Theft by Receiving Stolen Property means they believe you received, disposed of, or retained property that you knew was stolen or should have known was stolen.
Theft by Conversion means you originally had lawful possession of someone else's property but you then kept or converted the property to your own use without permission.
Theft by Deception means they believed you unlawfully obtained property by deceitful means.
Theft of Lost Property means you found property and kept it for yourself without taking reasonable measures to find the owner or return it.
Theft of Services means you received services from someone but then intentionally avoided payment for those services.
Penalties for Theft Charges
- If the total value of the property is less than $1500, it will be charged as a misdemeanor, with a maximum of 12 months in custody and a $1,000 fine.
- If total value of the property is at least $1500 but less than $5,000 = Felony, sentence is 1 to 5 years.
- If total value of the property is at least $5,000 but less than $25,000 = Felony, sentence is 1 to 10 years.
- If total value of the property is greater than $25,000 = Felony, sentence of 2 to 20 years.
- In any of these cases, sentencing can be all on probation, all in custody, or some combination of both.
- If you have a prior theft conviction, you may also be facing a felony even if the value of what was stolen this time is less than $1500.
Theft of a firearm is generally treated as a felony with a sentence of 1 to 10 years, regardless of the value of the gun.
If you were acting as a fiduciary (in a legal or ethical position of faith and trust with the victim) at the time of the theft, you will be charged with a felony, with a possible sentence of 1 to 15 years.
If you were charged with a felony theft, it is possible that you are eligible for some kind of diversion program that could help protect your record and have the charges dismissed. While diversion is usually reserved for people with no serious prior criminal history, some diversion programs are now allowing people with a felony history to participate. It is important to discuss these options with your lawyer.
In Georgia, Burglary comes in different forms:
1st Degree Burglary means you entered a dwelling or car (occupied or unoccupied), with the intent to commit a felony or theft in that dwelling. This is a tricky charge, because it only requires the “intent” to commit a felony, so you can be charged with this even if nothing was actually stolen.
Punishment for 1st Degree Burglary – 1 to 20 years. For a second conviction, it is 2 to 20 years. For a third or more conviction, 5 to 20 years.
2nd Degree Burglary is the same as first degree except it occurs in a place that is not a dwelling or vehicle. Dwelling usually means a residence, so 2nd degree is used for commercial buildings, etc.
Punishment for 2nd Degree Burglary – 1 to 5 years. For a subsequent conviction, 1 to 8 years.
Smash & Grab crimes (where you enter a store, and cause damage in excess of $500 as part of a theft) is also charged under the burglary statute.
Punishment for Smash and Grab is 2 to 20 years and/or a fine of up to $100,000. A second or more conviction, 5 to 20 years, plus up to $100,000 fine.
In any of these cases, sentencing can be all on probation, all in custody, or some combination of both.
There are defenses to burglary that include proving you had the right to be at that place and were not intending to commit a felony, you had the right to take the property in question, and/or that you took something that was for sale with proof you intended to pay for it.
This felony is similar to Burglary in the 1st, where someone enters an automobile with the intent to commit a felony or theft. There does not have to be an actual theft in order to be charged. The judge has the option to sentence this crime as a misdemeanor or as a felony with 1 to 5 years as punishment.
Possession of Tools
This felony involves possession tools or devices that are used commonly in burglaries or thefts. This is often charged when people are found in possession of bags lined with foil (to prevent electronic tags from triggering when they pass security). Also, screwdrivers and other common tools used to break locks can be unlawfully possessed under this statute if they can prove you had intent to commit a crime with them. The punishment for this crime is 1 to 5 years.
1st Degree Home Invasion is similar to 1st Degree Burglary but require the intent to commit a forcible felony, and that the crime occurred while in possession of a deadly weapon that was used against a person (doesn't require actual injury, just the likelihood that injury would occur) while that person was occupying the home. The punishment for this crime can be life in prison, or 10 to 20 years with up to a $100,000 fine.
2nd Degree Home Invasion is also similar to 1st Degree Burglary, but the intent is only to commit a forcible misdemeanor, not a felony. The punishment for this crime is 5 to 20 years and up to a $100,000 fine.
The sentence can be entirely in custody, entirely on probation, or some combination of both.
Robbery and Armed Robbery
Robbery is charged when someone takes property from another in one of these ways:
- By use of force
- By use of Intimidation, threat, coercion, or placing in fear of immediate injury
- By sudden snatching
The potential punishment is 1 to 20 years. If the victim is 65 years or older, the punishment is 5 to 20 years. In any of these cases, sentencing can be all on probation, all in custody, or some combination of both.
Armed Robbery is the use of an offensive weapon while committing a robbery. The weapon does not have to be a gun, it can be any offensive weapon, and it also covers replicas. The weapon does not have to be functioning or loaded. Nor does the weapon actually have to be seen. If the victim reasonably believes a weapon could be used (has apprehension that a weapon is present), that can be enough to be charged with armed robbery. Armed Robbery requires a minimum 10 years in custody (without parole) and can carry a maximum of life imprisonment or even the death penalty. There are statutes which allow judges to go below the 10 year minimum in custody and you should discuss these options with your attorney.
There are a variety of defenses to Theft and Robbery Charges. Even if you think the police have an airtight case against you, there are also many different ways to protect you from getting a harsh sentence and maybe even avoid a conviction entirely. Speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney about what options you have and how you can get to work today on fighting your case.