Busting Four Myths About Shoplifting in Georgia
Shoplifting continues to be a problem for U.S. retailers, one that has become more acute during the recession and unemployment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Approximately 550,000 shoplifting incidents occur every day in the U.S., costing merchants an estimated $45 million daily. And in a recent Business.org survey of small-business owners, 40 percent said shoplifting has increased since the pandemic began. In this environment, it’s critical to keep in mind that Georgia prosecutes shoplifting vigorously and that a conviction can have dire consequences.
Every year, our criminal defense team represents clients accused of shoplifting throughout the Atlanta area, many of whom are confused about the nature and gravity of the charges. Here are some commonly held myths that should be dispelled:
- Myth #1: Shoplifting simply is never a serious crime — While it is true that other crimes carry heavier penalties, shoplifting can be charged as a felony in Georgia, and a conviction can have a major impact on your life. You can face felony shoplifting charges if the items you take have a combined value of more than $500 or if you have a history of prior shoplifting offenses.
- Myth #2: You must leave the store with merchandise in order to be charged with shoplifting — In fact, Georgia law allows you to be charged with shoplifting even if you never make it out of the store. The shoplifting law is carefully worded so that it prohibits altering price tags, changing packaging and concealing goods or merchandise. If such actions are observed by the store’s security guard or another employee, you can be charged even if you never took any items outside the store.
- Myth #3: If you get caught shoplifting you will only be fined— The truth is, a shoplifting conviction can include jail time. This is the case even if you are charged with a misdemeanor. Your first misdemeanor shoplifting conviction could include up to a year in jail and a first felony could mean up to a decade behind bars. If you have prior convictions, the penalties only increase.
- Myth #4: People who shoplift are prone to committing other crimes — For the most part, people who shoplift tend to be otherwise law-abiding. Chronic shoplifters are often motivated by depression or other psychological problems. Amid the pandemic, otherwise honest people may resort to shoplifting to make ends meet. Prosecutors may try to portray the accused as someone who acts nefariously and could be a danger to the community. A defense lawyer can amass evidence of your good character and lack of prior criminal activity to counter such arguments and seek the most lenient treatment.
Based in Decatur, James D. Michael, P.C., is a criminal defense lawyer with more than 25 years of experience defending clients accused of shoplifting and other theft crimes. Serving clients throughout the Atlanta metro area, we’re ready to protect your rights. Get a free initial consultation by calling 404-857-4059 or contact us online anytime.