Georgia’s laws generally permit officials to file shoplifting charges when an employee claims an individual took goods from a retail store. Even if he or she did not leave the store, an alleged attempt to take items without paying for them may result in charges.

The value of the goods may determine whether an offense classifies as a misdemeanor or felony. For goods worth less than $500, a misdemeanor shoplifting charge may result in spending one year in jail and paying a fine if convicted.

How retail theft may become a felony offense

As noted by The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, shoplifting goods worth more than $500 may result in a felony conviction. If an individual paid less than $500, but the goods’ retail value was actually worth more, he or she may still face a felony charge.

Georgia law permits officials to charge a defendant with a felony when a theft requires some creativity or artfulness in changing the value of the goods. For example, if a retail store employee alleges an item had a false or an altered price tag, the purchaser may face a theft by deception offense, which classifies as a felony.

Penalties for a felony theft conviction

A first-time felony theft charge may lead to a fine and spending up to 10 years in state prison. Subsequent shoplifting offenses could result in a longer incarceration sentence and a higher fine.

To obtain a shoplifting conviction, a prosecutor must prove to a judge and jury that a defendant had the intent to deprive a retail store of its merchandise. Charged individuals have a constitutional right to a defense against the allegations and the possible punishments.