Athens Theft Defense Lawyer
Have You Been Charged with Stealing or Shoplifting?
Shoplifting may seem like a minor act, but Georgia takes this crime seriously and will punish offenders to the full extent of the law. In addition to court-imposed penalties, a shoplifting conviction will result in a permanent criminal record that can have an impact on your future. Hire a capable Athens shoplifting defense attorney to help protect your future.
If you have been caught shoplifting, call (706) 705-5122 to learn about your legal options.
Shoplifting is defined as the act of taking merchandise or depriving the store of its value. This means that shoplifting is more than stealing something without paying for it—switching or altering price tags or switching the merchandise to another container to pay a lower price is also considered shoplifting.
Georgia law encompasses a vast variety of theft offenses, and one of the most common is shoplifting. Under the state statute, a person shoplifts if he or she:
- Conceals goods or merchandise from a retailer
- Alters the price tag or any other price marker of merchandise from a retailer
- Transfers merchandise of a retailer from one container to another container
- Switches the price tag of one item with the price tag of another item
- Wrongfully causes the amount paid for merchandise to be less than the price stated by the retailer
Georgia also has a unique shoplifting statute called “Smash and Grab”. This applies to any person who smashes a display case or store window for the purpose of grabbing the merchandise inside. If the damage arises to more than $500 in value, a conviction could result in a mandatory two years of incarceration.
Importance of Defending Against Theft Charges
When facing a shoplifting charge, it is important that you secure the services experienced criminal defense in Athens. Though many people see this as a petty crime with minimal consequences, the potential punishments can prove serious if you are convicted.
Georgia classifies shoplifting as a misdemeanor offense, as long as the stolen merchandise is valued at $300 or less. The potential punishment for a conviction is up to a year in jail and/or $1,000 in fines.
There are several instances that may result in the elevation of the classification from misdemeanor to felony, including:
- Situations where the stolen merchandise is valued at more than $300; or
- Incidents where merchandise is taken from three separate stores within a seven-day period, and the merchandise stolen from each store is worth at least $100.
Felony convictions can result in up to 10 years imprisonment and/or fines. A felony conviction can also leave you with the classification of convicted felon for the remainder of your life.
Subsequent Shoplifting Offenses
When convicted of subsequent shoplifting crimes, the courts impose additional fines and possible incarceration. For example:
- With a second shoplifting conviction, whether the first was a misdemeanor or felony, the court will impose a fine in the amount of $250 in addition to in substitution of incarceration;
- With a third shoplifting conviction, whether the first two were misdemeanors or felonies, the court will impose a sentence of 30 days incarceration, or an alternative punishment for 120 days (such as home detention); and
- With a fourth shoplifting conviction, the court will impose a mandatory sentence of at least one year, with a maximum of 10 years. This sentence cannot be suspended, under law.
It is also important to note that Georgia law allows store employees or representatives to use reasonable means to detain suspected shoplifters until law enforcement arrives. However, these employees may not use unreasonable force or keep you for an unreasonable amount of time.
Our Defense Firm Can Help
If you are facing shoplifting charges, contact the Law Offices of J. Lee Webb. As an experienced Athens criminal defense lawyer, J. Lee Webb can provide you with the aggressive defense you need to protect your name and your freedom.
Contact the offices for a free case evaluation. Call (706) 705-5122 now. We work with clients to help come up with affordable payment plans.