If you are braving the crowds (and COVID-19 risks) to go shopping on Black Friday 2020, don’t take any steps that would cause you to be accused of shoplifting; and definitely don’t make the decision to shoplift.
Retailers are on extra high alert during these busy shopping holidays. Almost all major retailers have a policy of detaining individuals suspected of shoplifting and calling police to initiate criminal charges. While many shoplifting charges are misdemeanors, some can be felonies. All shoplifting charges have the potential to stay on your record for life.
Theft by Shoplifting
Under Georgia law, the criminal offense of shoplifting occurs as soon as a person picks up an item with the intent to steal it. You don’t even have to leave the store to be charged with shoplifting. You can be accused of shoplifting if you are caught:
- concealing goods,
- altering the price tag of an item,
- transferring goods from one store into your shopping bag from another store,
- interchanging the labels or price tags of items,
- placing an item inside of another item, or
- intentionally causing the amount paid to be less than the merchant’s stated price.
While shopping this holiday season, stay conscientious not to do anything that could be perceived as shoplifting.
Misdemeanor vs. Felony
Whether a shoplifting charge is a misdemeanor or a felony depends on the value of the item. In general, if you are accused of stealing items with a total value of $500 or less, then you will likely be charged with a misdemeanor. While less serious than a felony charge, a misdemeanor conviction can still result in a jail or probation sentence of up to 12 months and a fine of up to $1,000.
Shoplifting generally becomes a felony when the value of the items believed to be taken exceeds $500. If you have been convicted of shoplifting three prior times and are accused a fourth time, you will likely be charged with a felony regardless of the value of the goods taken. In Georgia, felony convictions carry imprisonment or probation of at least a year and a fine of $1,000 or more.
Also, there are ways under Georgia law that you can be charged with a felony if the prosecutor believes he or she can prove you stole items in excess of $500 from multiple locations or the same location over a period of time.
In addition to fines and other penalties, someone who has been convicted of shoplifting multiple times can face mandatory jail time or a court-ordered psychological evaluation.
Beyond the impacts that can come into play from the court system, having a shoplifting conviction on your record can make it challenging to obtain employment. This is especially true in retail establishments or other businesses where you are responsible for inventory or money.
Whatever your situation, shoplifting, or dealing with being accused of shoplifting, is not worth everything that comes along with those accusations.
If you end up in a situation where you or a loved one is accused of shoplifting, there are many ways to successfully fight a shoplifting charge. Mistakes can happen, especially on busy shopping days like Black Friday.
A store owner or security guard may have mistaken you for another person or may have accused you of taking goods you already own. In some cases, an individual accidentally fails to pay for merchandise before leaving a store, but is still charged with shoplifting when the police arrive.
If charged with shoplifting, you should call a criminal defense lawyer who can assess the evidence, the actions of the parties involved, and the options that may be available to you. Through this, the criminal defense attorney can determine whether legal defenses exist, like a lack of intent. By definition, shoplifting requires intent. For example, if a young child who is shopping with you puts something in your bag and you didn’t know it was there, you probably had no intent to take the merchandise.
Beyond legal defenses, many of our clients want to keep accusations like shoplifting off of their criminal records. Experienced criminal defense attorneys are knowledgeable in the ways cases can be resolved with records sealed.
Call the Experienced Shoplifting Defense Attorneys at Ghanouni
Our team focuses on helping protect the futures of people in their teens through mid-twenties who get in trouble with the law. If you or your child have been charged with shoplifting, the experienced attorneys at Ghanouni Teen & Young Adult Defense Firm can help. We regularly defend individuals against both misdemeanor and felony shoplifting charges. Contact us at 770-720-6336 for a complimentary Defense Strategy Meeting.
If you aren’t ready for a complimentary Defense Strategy Meeting, click here to download our free eBook 5 Things Not to Do After You’ve Been Charged with a Crime! This book can help you avoid common mistakes people make when facing a criminal or juvenile case.