Shoplifting Defense

By Irinia Dmitriyev, Michael Bixon

Shoplifting laws are generally determined on a state-to-state basis, but the elements of the crime are typically the same. The first element of shoplifting is the deliberate taking or concealment of an item that is being sold by an establishment without having been paid for. The second element of shoplifting refers to the individual’s intention of using the unpaid goods for their own personal use. In Georgia, an individual who alters the price tag on merchandise can be charged with shoplifting as well.

There are two factors that are typically taken into account when determining the severity of the penalties for shoplifters. These two factors can be the cost of the merchandise that was being lifted, and whether or not the individual had any previous shoplifting offenses. In the state of Georgia, if the value of the merchandise was less than $500, that is generally considered a misdemeanor.

If this was a first offense, the individual can receive up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1000. However, if the value of the merchandise was over $500, then the shoplifting charge becomes a felony. This can involve 1-10 years of jail time. For misdemeanors, the 2nd and 3rd offenses can result in heightened fines. A fourth offense, however, is a felony, even if the individual swiped a pack of gum. Convictions for shoplifting appear on an individual’s criminal record.

The state of Georgia has what is referred to as the “Smash and Grab” Law. This refers to an individual damaging property in order to obtain merchandise without paying for it. For example, if an individual were to shatter a display case at a jewelry store in order to steal a bracelet, the offense would fall under the Smash and Grab Law. If the store faces more than $500 in damages, the individual faces a mandatory two year prison sentence.