SHOPLIFTING IS SERIOUS BUSINESS WITH SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES

During the Christmas season, retail stores and merchants of all types prepare for an influx of business. Shopping becomes a sort of national pastime this time of year. Unfortunately, the crime of theft by shoplifting can also increase around the holiday season and in Georgia, this crime carries with it dire consequences.

Theft by shoplifting is defined in O.C.G.A. § 16-8-14. This code section states that a person commits the crime of theft by shoplifting when a person alone or in concert with another, with the intent of appropriating merchandise to his or her own use without paying for the same or to deprive the owner of possession thereof or the value thereof, in whole or in part, does any of the following things:

1) Conceals or takes possession of the merchandise of any store or retail establishment;

2) Alters the price tag on the merchandise of any store or retail establishment;

3) Transfers the merchandise of any store or retail establishment from one container to another;

4) Interchanges the label or price tag from one item with a label or price tag for another; or

5) Wrongfully causes the amount paid to be less than the merchant’s stated price for the merchandise.

The statute further states that if the value of the property taken is $500 or less, then it is a misdemeanor. Conversely, if the value of the property is greater than $500, then it’s a felony. With each subsequent shoplifting, the penalty increases. In fact, upon someone’s fourth or subsequent conviction for theft by shoplifting, whether felonies or misdemeanors, a person shall be guilty of a felony. Most important to note about a felony shoplifting based off the number of convictions is that the first year of the sentence cannot be suspended, deferred, probated or withheld. This means the first year must be served in confinement.

It’s important to see from the above statute that shoplifting is not just hiding an item in your pockets and walking out of the store. Five distinct methods of shoplifting are specifically laid out. In other words, the Georgia Legislature made great efforts to ensure that different schemes people might use to steal from retailers were penalized. So, please be aware this holiday season that stores are on the lookout for shoplifters and that shoplifting comes in many forms. Also, be aware that the business of shoplifting may come with some serious consequences.

Jeffrey E. Johnston is a local attorney licensed to practice in Georgia. His practice focuses primarily on Criminal Defense and Personal Injury law. His law firm can be reached at (706) 869-8171.