Shoplifting or retail fraud is one of the most common forms of theft in Georgia. Someone enters a store with the intention of taking property that they will not fully pay for before leaving. Some people hide merchandise in their pockets or purses. Others swap out price tags or only ring up a portion of items in their cart when they go through the self-checkout lane.
Any of these behaviors could lead to someone’s arrest when they leave the store. Although shoplifting may seem like a less serious crime than thefts that target individuals, Georgia treats it like a significant criminal offense. Although shoplifting is often a misdemeanor and doesn’t lead to incarceration, the courts are not always lenient.
There are two facts about Georgia shoplifting charges that the average person doesn’t know but should.
You can’t always avoid jail time
The penalties that you face for a shoplifting offense depend on the value of the items involved and also on your prior criminal record. Some people think that they can avoid incarceration by keeping the value of the shoplifted items lower, but that strategy doesn’t always work.
When someone has two prior shoplifting charges on their record, Georgia imposes more serious penalties. A third offense involving property worth less than $5000 will carry a mandatory jail sentence. You will spend at least 30 days in jail for a third shoplifting charge.
The charges won’t always be misdemeanor charges
You may already realize that if the total value of the shoplifted items is $500 or more, then the Georgia state government can charge you with a felony offense. What you might not realize is that you could face a felony shoplifting charge for items worth well under that threshold.
When you already have three previous shoplifting convictions, your fourth conviction automatically becomes a felony. You will face between one and 10 years in jail, and incarceration is mandatory.
When you consider how the penalties for shoplifting escalate with each subsequent offense, you can see why even first-time offenders will want to go to court to defend themselves. You can also likely easily understand the value of defending yourself when you have already pleaded guilty to shoplifting offenses in the past. Learning about the rules that govern criminal charges in Georgia can help you avoid breaking the law and better respond to pending charges.