Attorney for Theft Charges in Walton County, Georgia
Georgia’s theft laws are complex and include a wide variety of possible charges, ranging from misdemeanors to serious felonies. Even a misdemeanor theft charge, however, can seriously limit employment, education, and other opportunities if it appears on your criminal history. A skilled criminal defense attorney can help you understand your charges, achieve the best outcome possible, and protect your record.
The most common theft offense in Georgia is “theft by shoplifting,” that is, stealing from a store or merchant. Shoplifting can be either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the value of what was stolen and how many previous shoplifting convictions someone has. Shoplifting items with a value of $500 or more is a felony, even for someone with no criminal history. On the other hand, shoplifting anything, no matter how little, is a felony for anyone with three or more shoplifting convictions already on their record.
The most common type of theft other than shoplifting is “theft by taking,” which is the physical taking of property that belongs to another person. There is also “theft by receiving,” which is when someone accepts or holds property which they know or “should have known” is stolen, as well as “theft by deception,” “theft by conversion,” and “theft of lost or mislaid property.” All of these are usually misdemeanors unless the stolen property’s value is more than $1500, in which case it becomes a felony. There are exceptions, however. For example, theft of a firearm is always a felony, regardless of its value, and, as with shoplifting, prior theft convictions can escalate a theft charge from a misdemeanor to a felony.
Under Georgia law, burglary does not require that anything actually be stolen, only that someone enters another person’s property with the intent to commit a theft or other felony crime. The seriousness of a burglary charge depends on what type of property is entered, though all forms of burglary are felonies. Entering a house or other dwelling is 1st degree burglary, while entering any other structure is 2nd degree burglary. Entering a vehicle, while not technically burglary, is a similar crime known as “entering auto,” which is also a felony. Neither burglary nor entering auto require that the victim’s property be broken into, only that it be entered. For example, someone who walks into a house through an unlocked door is committing burglary if they have the intent to steal or commit a felony inside.
The most serious theft charges in Georgia are the various types of robbery. A person commits robbery when they take property directly from another person by force, intimidation, or sudden snatching. Using a weapon (or something that looks like a weapon, such as a fake gun) to commit a robbery escalates the crime to armed robbery, which is punishable by life in prison. Finally, home invasion is a combination of burglary and armed robbery, which occurs when someone enters an occupied dwelling while possessing a weapon and with the intent to commit a forcible crime. If the crime they intend to commit is a forcible felony, such as a robbery or aggravated assault, then home invasion can also be punished by life in prison.
What to do when Charged with a Theft Crime?
The crime of “theft” may seem simple, but Georgia’s laws regarding theft offenses are actually quite complicated. Therefore, it is important to consult with an attorney who is experienced in handling theft cases and can advise you of any defenses you may have. For example, the State may not be able to prove the value of stolen property in a theft by taking case, or that the defendant intended to commit a theft or felony in a burglary case. An attorney can also advise you of ways to keep a theft charge from appearing on your criminal record if a traditional defense is not available to you. Call us today for a free consultation and see what we can do to help!