Theft – Shoplifting

Theft and Shoplifting Laws

Theft can be a lot more than walking out of the gas station and forgetting to pay for your snacks. If you are convicted of theft in Georgia, you face potential sentences up to twenty years. If you are facing harsh consequences in your theft case, contact us for a consultation.

Criminal Charge in Georgia? Please call (800) 993-5468.

Theft is defined by how you take and what you take. You may hear many terms used when describing the offense of theft and it is important you understand exactly what your charges are.

Shoplifting – Laws and Penalties

You can commit shoplifting in several different ways. The intention of your action is to take an item without paying for it or by depriving the owner of all or some of its value by:

  • Concealing the goods,
  • Altering the price tag,
  • Transferring the item from one container to another,
  • Changing the price tag from another item, or
  • Wrongfully causing the wrong price to be charged.

Under Georgia’s shoplifting laws, if the property you are convicted of shoplifting is valued at less than $300, it is charged as a misdemeanor with potential sentences of up to 1 year in prison and up to $1,000 in fines. However, the punishments grow harsher with each subsequent offense.

If the value of the property shoplifted is more than $300, you will be charged with a felony and face 1 to 10 years in prison.

*Also, if you are charged with shoplifting from 3 different stores in one county, within 7 days, where the value shoplifted at each store was over $100, you will be charged with a felony and face 1 to 10 years in prison.

Georgia’s New “Smash And Grab Law

New laws were passed in the summer of 2010 by the Georgia Legislature to increase penalties for so called “smash and grab” thefts. A smash and grab is a quick theft where someone smashes a window, door, or display case, grabs the presumably more expensive merchandise, and runs away quickly.

BecauseĀ of the increase in these penalties, and the destruction they can cause, the new laws have some tougher penalties that typical shoplifting/theft charges.

An adult convicted of a smash and grab theft which does damage of over $500 will face a mandatory 2 years in jail. Soliticing a minor child to do a smash and grab on your behalf can result in a prison sentence of 1 to 5 years.

Smash and grabs are more than a childish prank, or exercise in bad judgement, like many shoplifting cases may be.

They are often part of a criminal enterprise or ongoing criminal lifestyle, so the new penalties are particularly harsh.

More on smash and grabs here.

Theft By Taking

If you take or are in possession of the property of another person with the intent to deprive them of their property, you can be charged and found guilty of theft by taking.

Theft by Deception

Theft by deception involves obtaining something that does not belong to you by deceitful means. This could mean that you create or confirm someone’s incorrect assumption about a fact or event, when you know it is wrong.

You can also be guilty of theft by deception if you accept payment for something you know will not be done, or if you sell property without disclosing any liens and/or claims on the property.


  • You sell your vehicle to someone before you have finished paying it off.

The lending company would have a lien on your car, which means it isn’t yours to sell.

  • You bill someone for services that were never done.

Perhaps burying the charge on an invoice of completed tasks.

  • You take payment from someone on the promise that you will paint their house and never intend to actually do the job.

Theft by Conversion

If you take someone’s money and they intend for you to apply it in some manner, but you use it for your own purposes, you are guilty of theft by conversion. For instance, if the bank teller took your deposit and, rather than applying it to your savings account, she put it in her pocket and took it home, she committed theft by conversion.

Theft by conversion also applies to rental property. If you fail to return rental property after it has been lawfully demanded by the owner, you have committed theft by conversion.

Theft of Services

Theft of services occurs when you receive a service, accommodation, or entertainment with no intention of paying for it.

Allowing a maid service to clean your house for a week, knowing you will not be paying the bill would be considered theft of services.

Theft of Lost or Mislaid Property

This refers to the lost wallet you might find. If you discover something you know or end up learning was lost or mislaid by another person, and you take possession of it without attempting to return it to its rightful owner, you have committed theft of lost or mislaid property.

Theft by Receiving Stolen Property

If you receive, dispose of, or retain property that you know (or should know) is stolen, you have committed theft. This does not apply if you take the property with the intention of returning it to its rightful owner.

**All of the above theft offenses will be charged as a misdemeanor (fines up to $1,000 and up to 1 year in prison) as long as the value of the property was under $500. If the value was over $500, the judge can sentence you to no less than one and no more than ten years in prison.**