A teenager often acts impulsively, especially around friends. Many times, this results in harmless teenage antics, but when a person is in a retail store and takes or conceals merchandise, even if he or she does not make it out of the store, there is the potential for serious charges. This may include jail time and a criminal record that will haunt a person for the remainder of his or her life.
Accordingly, Georgia has made changes to its law that results in charges of a felony if a person is found to be in possession of merchandise valued at more than $500.00. Despite this being an increase over the previous amount, this remains a surprisingly small number – even the right pair of shoes can exceed it – and many people who are charged with shoplifting are shocked to find themselves facing a felony conviction and all the trouble that brings with it. The way Georgia law works, a person can exceed this minimum felony threshold by taking merchandise from different establishments over a seven-day period. A person convicted for the third time must serve mandatory time incarcerated. In addition, a person who has been previously convicted of three shoplifting charges, regardless of the amount, automatically will face felony charges for the fourth charge.
There are many different actions that fall within the category of shoplifting, including:
- Concealing or asserting possession over merchandise and removing it from the retail establishment;
- Changing the price that rings up on the register through modification or replacement of the price tags;
- Exchanging price tags with a lower priced item;
- Moving merchandise from one container to another in order to remove items from the retail establishment or merchant without paying for the product or without paying the price determined by the store; or
- Using some other method to avoid paying for the merchandise or paying less than the amount being charged by the retail establishment or merchant.
In Georgia, a person does not have to leave the store with the merchandise in order to be charged with the crime of shoplifting. See O.C.G.A. § 16-8-14.
The punishment increases as the crime charged becomes more serious. A misdemeanor charge for shoplifting merchandise valued at less than $500.00 can result in a fine of $1,000.00 and jail time of up to one year. A felony charge may result in prison time between on and 10 years. Many people are shocked to find themselves facing 10 years in prison when he or she is convicted for the fourth time for shoplifting, but the courts have upheld this as a reasonable sentence.
It is critical to act quickly when someone is arrested for shoplifting. If it is your child that has been arrested, his or her future rests on getting the right legal help as quickly as possible. A criminal conviction can interfere with a person’s educational choices, career potential, rental housing, licensing, and even immigration status. A conviction, even for a misdemeanor, is going to appear on background checks every time a person conducts the right type of search if it is not expunged.
In addition to criminal charges, a person who has shoplifted merchandise may be pursued in a civil lawsuit brought by the merchant, who may seek compensatory damages for the merchandise that was taken. Depending on the value of the merchandise, a merchant also be able to go after liquidated damages up to twice the value of the merchandise taken, as well as the cost of bringing the legal action.
There are special pretrial diversion and intervention programs that can be utilized by first-time offenders, as well as those charged with low-level crimes. These are particularly important for young offenders because it can lead to the dismissal of charges as long as certain requirements are met. These requirements depend on the specific facts of the case and may include restitution or community service.
The Abt Law Firm, LLC. Aggressively fights for its Clients
It is critical for someone charged with shoplifting, or someone whose son or daughter has been charged, to get the right lawyer fighting on their behalf as quickly as possible. The Atlanta Criminal Defense Firm of the Abt Law Firm, LLC. has the skill and experience to get charges completely dismissed. We also work hard to get records expunged so that they do not negatively impact a person’s future. If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, it is urgent for you to call us immediately at (678) 582-2272. We offer free consultations and are ready to come to you in jail.