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When does shoplifting become a felony charge in Georgia?

Some people think of shoplifting as a victimless crime because it targets a business and not an individual. When compared with burglary or robbery, shoplifting obviously seems like an offense with a lower societal impact.

However, shoplifting affects everyone, whether they realize it or not. Retail fraud and the loss of products at stores affect how retailers display merchandise and how much they charge for their products. Retail fraud or shoplifting can also affect the average person if security guards, loss prevention professionals or managers interpret their behavior in a store as evidence of shoplifting.

Whether you forgot something at the bottom of your cart when trying to leave the store or picked up an item with an altered price tag, not realizing that someone had swapped out the barcodes, you could find yourself facing shoplifting charges. When does Georgia treat shoplifting as a misdemeanor, and when does it become a felony offense?

The value of the goods influences the severity of the charges

All theft charges in Georgia depend on the value of the goods that someone steals or tries to steal. If the total value of the merchandise is less than $500, shoplifting charges will typically be misdemeanor charges. However, if the total value of the merchandise is more than $500, the person arrested will likely find themselves facing a felony offense.

The record of the person accused can also influence the charges

Someone who has a history of repeatedly shoplifting could face more serious charges even if they only take lower-value items. A criminal history that includes two or more previous shoplifting charges will mean more penalties, while three or more previous offenses will be enough to put someone at risk of felony charges even if the items have a value of well under $500.

Felony shoplifting charges mean longer possible incarceration penalties, higher fines and a more serious blemish on your criminal record. Even in situations where it seems like you have no options, there are many ways to defend against shoplifting allegations and other theft crimes.

The first step toward determining how to defend yourself typically involves looking at the evidence against you and familiarizing yourself with Georgia laws.