Shoplifting Defense Lawyers serving all Augusta GA area
Shoplifting is a common offense in the USA. Prosecution of shoplifting cases differs from one state to another. For example, shoplifting is prosecuted under theft laws in some states while others have specifically defined the shoplifting offense in their codes. In Georgia, shoplifting is defined in section 16-8-14 of the Official Code of Georgia.
A shoplifting conviction can carry consequences such as fines and jail time depending on whether the accused is a first-time offender or a repeat offender. Besides the penalties imposed by the law, a shoplifting conviction has other negative implications such as tainting the accused’s criminal record, which may reduce their chances of getting a job. In light of the above, you shouldn’t plead guilty without putting up a fight when charged with shoplifting in Georgia. This is why calling one of the shoplifting defense attorneys at Fleming & Nelson in Augusta GA is critical to protecting your rights and freedom.
Definition of the crime ‘theft by shoplifting’ in Georgia
This crime is defined in the Official Code of Georgia section 16-8-14:
“(a) A person commits the offense of theft by shoplifting when such person alone or in concert with another person, with the intent of appropriating merchandise to his or her own use without paying for the same or to deprive the owner of possession thereof or of the value thereof, in whole or in part, does any of the following:
(1) Conceals or takes possession of the goods or merchandise of any store or retail establishment;
(2) Alters the price tag or other price marking on goods or merchandise of any store or retail establishment;
(3) Transfers the goods or merchandise of any store or retail establishment from one container to another;
(4) Interchanges the label or price tag from one item of merchandise with a label or price tag for another item of merchandise; or
(5) Wrongfully causes the amount paid to be less than the merchant’s stated price for the merchandise.”
In other words, shoplifting is stealing items from a retail store. Some of the actions that count as theft by shoplifting in Georgia are
- Concealing items of a retail store
- Changing the stated price of an item
- Exchanging the labels or price tags of items
- Changing the packaging of merchandise
- Any action whose intention is to make you pay less than the stated price
In Georgia, the store owner or their staff are allowed to detain you for a reasonable period if they suspect you of shoplifting. This period should help the shopkeeper recover the stolen goods. Besides detaining you, the store owner and their staff are allowed to conduct reasonable searches on you to recover the stolen items. Note the use of the word ‘reasonable.’ It means the store owner shouldn’t detain you if they have no probable cause to suspect you have shoplifted. Further, they should not continue holding you after it’s established you had not shoplifted. If the store violates any of your rights, you can contact an attorney to help you determine if you have a claim for damages which you may be compensated.
Consequences of shoplifting in Georgia
The penalties for theft by shoplifting imposed by the Georgia Code depend on the value of the stolen goods and whether the accused is a first-time offender or a repeat offender
Misdemeanor vs. Felony Shoplifting
If the value of the stolen merchandise is less than $500, shoplifting is usually treated as a misdemeanor. If the value of the stolen goods is $500 or more, shoplifting is treated a felony.
Misdemeanors carry a punishment of a fine of up to $1000 and/or imprisonment for up to one year. Felonies carry a punishment of imprisonment for between 1-10 years.
The accused may be punished by imprisonment and/or a fine of at least $500 that cannot be probated or suspended. The imprisonment term depends on whether the offense was a felony or a misdemeanor.
The accused is punished by
- Imprisonment for at least 30 days, or
- Boot Camp, or
- Probation Detention Center, or
- A monitored house arrest for 120 days, or
- Confinement in the Department of Corrections’ centers for 120 days
In addition to such types of confinement, may be required to undergo psychological evaluation and treatment to be paid for by the defendant
The above sentences cannot be suspended or deferred. On top of the sentences, the judge may impose a fine.
Fourth and subsequent offenses
Fourth and subsequent shoplifting offenses are treated as felonies. They are punished by imprisonment for between 1-10 years, of which the first year cannot be suspended or deferred.
Shoplifting is also treated as a felony if the accused steals merchandise from at least three stores in the same county within a period of seven days or less, and the value of merchandise taken per case exceeds $500. Also, it is a felony if the suspect shoplifts dangerous items such as guns and explosives.
Finally, A person may be convicted of the offense of felony theft by shoplifting when the person accused is alleged to have stolen from a store or stores multiple times within a 180 day period, and w when the total retail value/price of the property which was the subject of each theft exceeds $500.00 in value/price.
Possible defenses to shoplifting charges in Georgia
The punishment imposed for shoplifting is flexible; it depends on how the shoplifting lawyer in Augusta GA defends the suspect. How your attorney argues the case can determine whether you receive a penalty as harsh as a ten-year jail term or a light sentence such as a diversion program or probation. You are likely to get better results if you hire an experienced shoplifting lawyer in Augusta GA.
That said, the following are some of the arguments you can use for protection against shoplifting charges in Augusta GA
- Identifying mistakes in the prosecution’s evidence: Most store owners and staff are not trained security experts; there may be mistakes in how they collect, store, and present evidence. You should identify such errors and use them to your advantage.
- Lack of intent: This is one of the main argument points in shoplifting cases. The prosecution must prove that you intentionally stole the item or items. On your side, you can argue that the concealing of the merchandise was not intentional. For example, you might have forgotten to pay and walked with items towards the entrance.
- The value of the merchandise stolen: The value of the goods stolen determines whether the offense is a felony or a misdemeanor. The prosecution should provide things such as photographs of price tags to prove the value of the stolen goods at the time of the offense is what is indicated in the court documents. Some stores inflate the value; go through their evidence thoroughly to check for inflation and inconsistencies.
- Mistaken identity
- You are the owner of the goods in question
About Fleming & Nelson shoplifting attorneys
We are a team of accomplished shoplifting attorneys who are licensed to practice law in Georgia. If you need protection against shoplifting charges in Augusta GA, you can count on us. Once you contact us, we will thoroughly evaluate your case. Further, if you hire Fleming & Nelson shoplifting attorneys, we will keep in touch to give you regular updates regarding the progress of the case.
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