Theft Defined Under Georgia Law
Theft can occur in a variety of ways under Georgia law. The most common type of theft involves theft by taking, which Georgia statute defines as occurring when a person “unlawfully takes or, being in lawful possession thereof, unlawfully appropriates any property of another with the intention of depriving him of the property, regardless of the manner in which property is taken or appropriated.” (Georgia Code § 16-8-2.)
Georgia law also provides for several other types of theft, including:
- theft by deception (§ 16-8-3.)
- theft by conversion (§ 16-8-4.)
- theft of services (§ 16-8-5.)
- theft of lost or mislaid property (§ 16-8-7.)
- theft by receiving property stolen in another state (§ 16-8-8.)
- theft by bringing stolen property into the state (§ 16-8-9.)
- theft by shoplifting (§ 16-8-14.), and
- theft by extortion (§ 16-8-16.).
Theft as Misdemeanor or Felony in Georgia
When a theft offense involves property valued at $500 or less, the crime is punishable as a misdemeanor in Georgia. (§ 16-8-12.) Punishment for a misdemeanor includes a fine of no more than $1,000 and a sentence of imprisonment of no more than 12 months. If an offender receives a sentence of six months or less, it is within the authority and discretion of the sentencing judge to allow the sentence to be served via weekend confinement or during the offender's nonworking hours. (§ 17-10-3.)
If the theft offense involves property valued at more than $500, the crime is punishable as a felony, or as a misdemeanor, at the judge’s discretion. (§ 17-10-5.) If charged as a felony, theft carries a sentence of imprisonment of not less than one year and not more than ten years. (§ 16-8-12.) The other circumstances under which a theft is punishable as a felony in Georgia include:
- theft of anhydrous ammonia (one to ten years of imprisonment)
- theft involving the breach of a fiduciary relationship (one to 15 years of imprisonment, and/or a fine)
- theft of government or bank property, by an employee (one to 15 years of imprisonment, and/or a fine)
- theft involving a gravesite or cemetery decoration (one to three years of imprisonment)
- theft of a motor vehicle or vehicle part worth more than $100 (one to 10 years of imprisonment)
- theft committed while telemarketing, using a computer or computer network, or engaging in home repair or improvement (one to 10 years of imprisonment),
- theft of a destructive device, explosive, or firearm (one to 10 years of imprisonment).
Shoplifting in Georgia
A shoplifting offense will result in a misdemeanor conviction in the state of Georgia where the value of the shoplifted property is $300 or less.
However, a shoplifting offense will constitute a felony under Georgia law if:
- the value of the shoplifted property is more than $300, or
- the property is stolen from three separate stores in the same county within a seven-day period, and the property that is the subject of each theft is worth at least $100. (§ 16-8-14.)
For an offender’s second shoplifting offense, the court will impose a fine of at least $250, either in addition to or instead of a sentence of imprisonment.
Upon a third shoplifting offense in Georgia, an offender willl receive a sentence of imprisonment of 30 days, or an alternative sentence of confinement, such as home detention, for a period of 120 days, and may be ordered to receive psychological evaluation or treatment at the offender’s expense.
Upon a fourth or subsequent shoplifting offense, the offender shall receive a sentence of imprisonment of at least one year, which is non-suspendable, and a maximum of ten years. (§ 16-8-14.)
Civil Liability for Theft in Georgia
Any owner of stolen personal property may bring a civil action for damages against the person that stole the property. Monetary damages in such a case may include:
- compensatory damages, including the value of the property and any other loss sustained as a result of the theft
- liquidated exemplary damages in the amount of $150 or twice the value of the loss, if the value of the total claim is less than $5,000, and
- costs of maintaining the action
The civil action may proceed if the following conditions are met:
- the property owner provided a demand for payment of his or her losses to the offender at least 30 days prior to filing the civil action
- the offender did not pay the amount demanded by the property owner, or otherwise enter into a payment agreement, within 30 days of receiving the demand for payment, and
- the property owner did not file the civil action until at least 30 days following the date of service of the written demand for payment on the offender, or after the offender failed to make payment as agreed. (§ 51-10-6.)