Have You Been Charged with Shoplifting in the State of Georgia? If you have been charged with shoplifting in the state of Georgia, you are probably feeling worried, frightened and anxious. You may not know exactly what you are facing, or what you need to do. What you should know is that the consequences of a conviction for shoplifting can be extremely serious. You could be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony, primarily depending on the value of the items you allegedly took, and whether you have a prior criminal record.

Whether you are in Alpharetta, Roswell, Johns Creek, Gwinnett, Forsyth, DeKalb, or Atlanta, the very best decision you can make after being charged with shoplifting is to immediately contact a knowledgeable Georgia criminal defense attorney. Once you have an advocate in your corner who will protect your rights, you can make the informed decision which will have the least amount of adverse impact on your future.

Who Shoplifts?

In a statistic which may surprise you, one in every eleven people have shoplifted an item during their lifetime. Over the past five years, more than ten million people have actually been caught shoplifting. Of those, about 75 percent were adults, and the remainder were children or teens. In most cases, shoplifting is not a premeditated crime. In fact, nearly three-quarters of those who shoplift went into the store without the intention of taking something. Further, in today’s still-shaky economy, many of those who shoplift an item do so out of financial need rather than for a thrill, or in response to peer pressure. The most commonly shoplifted items actually back up this statement: meat, razors, and baby formula. Whatever your reasons for shoplifting, whether impulse, financial need, or you truly forgot to pay for the item, you need experienced legal help.

What are the Requirements for Georgia Shoplifting Charges?

In the state of Georgia, it is not actually necessary for you to leave the store with merchandise in order to be charged with shoplifting. Georgia shoplifting laws prohibit the following:

  •  Concealment of goods or merchandise while in a retail establishment or store;
  •  Making alterations of price tags on goods or merchandise;
  • Transferring merchandise from one container to another;
  •  Changing a price tag or label from one piece of merchandise to another, and
  • Leaving the store with an unpaid item.

There is another type of shoplifting charge known as “smash and grab.” This is a type of quick theft where a display case, window or door is broken and merchandise grabbed before the perpetrator runs away. There are tougher penalties for a smash and grab than for “typical” shoplifting charges. An adult who is convicted of a smash and grab which includes damages of more than $500 faces between 2-20 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000 or both.

Will I Be Charged with a Felony or Misdemeanor for Shoplifting in Georgia?

Have You Been Charged with Shoplifting in the State of Georgia? As mentioned above, the level of charges you will face depend in part on the value of the item you are accused of shoplifting, as well as whether you have a prior criminal history. Generally speaking, if the property taken is valued at $500 or less, your crime will be punishable as a misdemeanor, meaning you will face a maximum fine of $1,000, and a maximum jail term of 12 months. If the value of the property you took is more than $500, your crime could be prosecuted as a felony. A felony shoplifting conviction could result in a maximum prison sentence of ten years, and a minimum of one year. Regardless of the value of the item, if you are accused of taking anhydrous ammonia, a destructive device, explosive or firearm or a motor vehicle or vehicle part worth more than $100, you will be charged with a felony, and could serve one to ten years in prison.

Pretrial Intervention, Diversion Programs and Plea Bargains

If this is your first Georgia shoplifting offense, you may be able to take advantage of a diversion or pretrial program, or your attorney may be able to negotiate a favorable plea bargain. In some cases, if you complete all court requirements, such as restitution and community service, your charges might be dropped completely. If there are no diversion or pretrial intervention programs available, reduced charges with lighter sentencing may be an option through a plea bargain which requires your plea of “guilty.” If you receive a second conviction for shoplifting, your fine will be a minimum of $500; if you are convicted for a third time, you will serve a minimum of 30 days in jail, with no suspension, probation, stay or withholding available. You could also be required to undergo psychological evaluation and treatment. A fourth shoplifting conviction in the state of Georgia could result in a minimum of one year and 10 year maximum prison sentence.

Experienced Legal Assistance During a Difficult Time

If you have been charged with the crime of shoplifting, this is no time to succumb to inaction, hoping the entire thing will go away on its own. It won’t. However, knowing your rights, and having a strong legal advocate in your corner can make a huge difference. Melanie Ellwanger is an experienced criminal defense attorney who has the advantage of being a former prosecutor. Much of the stress associated with your shoplifting charges can be alleviated when you call Melanie at 404-803- 3105.