Can You Be Charged with a Felony for Theft?

Theft is one of the most committed crimes. There is a broad range of actions that can fall under the theft umbrella. Each theft crime will have different circumstances, and those circumstances will determine how the person who committed the crime is charged. Understanding Georgia’s theft laws and the possible penalties can help anyone facing theft charges decide which actions to take.

How Georgia Defines Theft

In Georgia, theft is split into four different categories. Those categories are as follows:

  • Theft by taking: Theft by taking is the crime most people when they think of the word theft. According to Georgia’s statutes, theft by taking occurs when someone takes another person’s property with the intent to deprive that person of the property. The term “theft by taking” is also known as “larceny.”
  • Theft by deception: Theft by deception occurs when someone takes property from another person by deceiving that person. For example, someone may lie and claim they are a computer repairman to take someone’s laptop without the intent to return it.
  • Theft by conversion: This form of theft occurs when someone uses land they legally acquired against the terms of a contract. For example, if someone purchases a home and says they’re going to live there with their family but end up running a business out of the home, they may have committed theft by conversion.
  • Theft of services: Theft of services occurs when someone steals a service that is not a tangible item. For example, entering a movie theater and watching a movie without paying for a ticket could be considered a theft of a service.

Penalties for Theft

Theft is penalized in Georgie based on the type of property or services stolen, as well as their total value. Theft crimes can result in misdemeanor charges or felony charges depending on the amount that was stolen. Certain theft crimes are called “wobblers” because they can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the judge’s opinion. This is only applicable to felonies punishable by less than 10 years in prison.

Theft by Taking Penalties

In order for someone to be convicted of theft by taking, the state of Georgia will have to prove that they took another person’s property with the intent to deprive the rightful owner of the property. Here are the possible penalties for theft by taking in Georgia:

  • $1,500 or less: If the total amount of goods stolen was less than $1,500, it will result in a misdemeanor charge. The penalties include up to 1 year in jail and a fine up to $1,000.
  • Between $1,500 and $5,000: If the total amount of goods stolen was more than $1,500 but less than $5,000, it can result in a misdemeanor or felony charge. The potential penalties include a prison sentence between 1 and 5 years long.
  • Between $5,000 and $25,000: If the total amount of goods stolen was more than $5,000 but less than $25,000, the judge can charge the crime as either a felony or a misdemeanor. The potential penalties include a prison sentence between 1 and 10 years long.
  • If the accused has two or more prior theft convictions: Anyone convicted of theft by taking who has already been convicted at least twice prior will be charged with a felony or a misdemeanor. The decision is left to the judge. The potential consequences include a prison sentence between 1 and 5 years long.
  • If the stolen object was meant to memorialize a deceased person: If the object that was stolen was a memorial to a deceased person or ornamentation left by a grave, the result will be a felony charge. The penalty will include a prison sentence between 1 and 3 years long.
  • If the stolen item was a weapon: If the stolen item was an explosive, a gun, or other destructive weapon, the defendant will be charged with a felony. The potential penalties for such a crime include a prison sentence between 1 and 10 years long.

Theft by Deception Penalties

Like most forms of theft, the penalties for theft by deception are based on the value of what was stolen. Someone charged with theft by deception for billing someone for work they did not do might not receive as severe a penalty as someone who sold property without telling the buyer that there was a lien on it. The potential penalties for a theft by deception conviction are as follows:

  • $1,500 or less: Someone convicted for theft by deception worth less than $1,500 will be sentenced to as much as 1 year in jail and receive a fine up to $1,000.
  • Between $1,500 and $5,000: Anyone convicted for theft by deception worth more than $1,500 but less than $5,000 may be charged with a misdemeanor or felony depending on the judge. The punishment includes a prison sentence between 1 and 5 years long.
  • Between $5,000 and $25,000: If someone is convicted for theft by deception worth more than $5,000 but less than $25,000, they may be charged with either a misdemeanor or felony. The penalties may include a prison sentence between 1 and 10 years long.
  • More than $25,000: If someone is convicted for theft by deception worth more than $25,000, they will receive a felony charge. The punishment will include at least 2 years in prison and as much as 20 years.

Theft by Conversion Penalties

Theft by conversion is more commonly known as embezzlement. Embezzlement occurs when someone is trusted with money and given specific instructions for how to use it but chooses to use it for their own gain instead. The potential penalties for a theft by conversion conviction include:

  • Less than $500: Theft by conversion worth less than $500 will be charged as a misdemeanor crime. The potential punishments include a jail sentence up to 1 year long as well as a $1,000 fine.
  • More than $500: Theft by conversion worth more than $500 will be charged as a felony crime. The potential punishments include a prison sentence between 1 and 10 years long.

Note that the courts may order restitution as part of a defendant’s consequences. Restitution is a court-ordered payment the defendant in a theft case has to pay to the person they stole from. The purpose of restitution is to restore the plaintiff to the financial position they were in prior to being stolen from. It also acts as punishment for the defendant.

Theft of Services Penalties

Theft of services is a misdemeanor crime when the total stolen value is less than $500. A person charged with misdemeanor theft of services may receive a fine up to $1,000 as well as a jail sentence up to 1 year long. If the jail sentence given is less than 6 months, the judge may allow the sentence to be served on weekends or when the defendant isn’t working.

Theft of services is a felony crime when the services stolen equate to more than $500. Penalties for felony theft of services include a prison term of at least 1 year but no more than 10 years.

Common Defenses for Theft Crimes

Every theft crime will have unique circumstances that will determine the approach the defendant’s legal team decide to take regarding a defensive strategy. However, there are some defenses that are used commonly in theft crimes, such as:

  • Belief of ownership: Someone facing certain theft charges may be able to have their charges dropped if they can prove they had a reasonable belief that the property in question belonged to them.
  • Entrapment: If someone can prove that they were coerced into committing a theft they would not have committed otherwise, they may be able to have their charges dropped or lowered. The defendant has to prove that they had not planned to commit the crime prior to being coerced into it.
  • Duress: Someone who committed theft because they were being threatened with great bodily harm, blackmail, or death might not be held responsible for the crime by a judge.
  • Intoxication: For someone to be convicted of theft, it must be proven they intended to steal the item in question. If someone can prove that they took something on accident because they were intoxicated, they may be able to have their charges lowered.

We Can Help

If you have been accused of theft and need legal counsel, contact Daniels & Taylor, P.C. today. Our highly experienced legal team will provide you with aggressive and consistent legal services. We understand that theft charges are serious and can impact your future. That is why we will work tirelessly on your behalf to work towards a favorable outcome, such as having your charges lowered or dropped entirely. Contact us at (770) 285-1673 or online for a free consultation.

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