What’s the Difference Between Burglary, Shoplifting, and Theft?

Distinguishing Between Property Crimes

Burglary, shoplifting, and theft are often used interchangeably. However, though they are all property crimes, they refer to very specific offenses. The differentiating factor is how an individual commits the act of stealing.

Burglary

Burglary requires some degree of trespassing. It occurs when an individual unlawfully enters into a home or business with the intent to commit a crime. While the intended crime is frequently theft, it is not limited to this infraction. If someone enters a home with intent to commit another crime, such as assault, it is still considered burglary.

There are three types of burglary in Georgia:

  • First degree burglary: Occurs when an individual enters a dwelling with the intent to commit a felony or theft. It is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
  • Second degree burglary: Occurs when an individual enters a building that is not a dwelling with the intent to commit a felony or theft. It is punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
  • Smash and grab burglary: Occurs when an individual visits a retail establishment with intent to steal and causes over $500 worth of damage. It is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and $100,000 in fines.

Shoplifting

Georgia law defines shoplifting as concealing merchandise with the intent to steal it. This means that, even if the act of stealing was not successful, planning to take store merchandise without paying is still enough for a conviction.

A person may also be guilty of shoplifting if they swap the price tags of two object in an attempt to pay a lower price. If an individual attempts to take or buy merchandise at a price other than the listed retail cost, they are guilty of shoplifting.

Shoplifting is a misdemeanor when the merchandise is worth $500 or less, and a felony when it is worth over $500. As a felony, it is punishable by one to ten years in prison.

Theft/Larceny

Theft, also known as larceny, occurs when one person takes property from another without their permission and with the intent to permanently deprive the other person of that object. It could be charged as a misdemeanor or felony:

  • Misdemeanor theft: Occurs when the property is valued at $1,500 or less. It is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and a jail sentence of up to 12 months.
  • Felony theft: Occurs when the property is valued at or above $25,000. It is punishable by between two and 20 years in prison.

Theft of property valued at more than $1,500 but less than $5,000 is punishable by one to five years in prison. If the property is valued between $5,000 and $25,000, it is punishable by one to ten years in prison. These crimes are considered “wobbler offenses,” meaning that it is up to the judge ruling on the case to decide whether it will be treated as a felony or misdemeanor.

There are additional instances of theft that are felony offenses in Georgia. Other felony theft crimes include:

  • Theft that involves a breach of a fiduciary obligation. It is punishable by one to 15 years in prison.
  • Theft by an employee of a government or financial institution that involves a breach of their duties. It is punishable by one to 15 years in prison.
  • Theft of any property valued above $500 by deceiving a person who is 65 or older. It is punishable by five to ten years in prison.
  • Theft of anhydrous ammonia, the ingredient for meth. It is punishable by one to ten years in prison.
  • Theft of a firearm, explosive, or destructive device. It is punishable by one to ten years in prison. If it is an offender’s second or subsequent conviction, there is a five-year minimum sentence.
  • Theft from a gravesite or memorial. It is punishable by one to three years in prison.

Burglary, shoplifting, and theft are serious offenses with hefty penalties. If you or a loved one have been charged with such a crime, you must act fast to protect your future. Contact our attorneys for help with your case today.

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