Georgia Shoplifting: Does it matter the type of items I stole?

Question: I got arrested for shoplifting in Alpharetta yesterday and I’m embarrassed and worried about my future. I was only ever arrested one time before, and that was about 15 years ago, and that was also for shoplifting, that time in Roswell, Georgia. The charge in Roswell was for trying to steal a couple of shirts, a ring, and two watches. I didn’t need any of that stuff personally, but it was close to Christmas and I just didn’t have a lot of money for gifts.

The new charge, from yesterday, seems to me like it’s totally different. I got caught trying to leave a store with some apples and a couple of magazines and some gum. The items added up to under $25.00, which is far less than the old Roswell shoplifting charge, which was for a couple of hundred dollars.

I just took the items because I was in a hurry and didn’t want to wait and stand in line. And the cashier who I know fairly well from shopping there is a bit of a jerk and so I didn’t want to speak with her at all.

I wound up spending the day in the Alpharetta jail.

I’ve heard that if you shoplift food, the penalties are less than if you take other things, like clothes, jewelry, watches, cosmetics or tech gear. I don’t know if that’s true, but I guess it makes sense so I wanted to contact an Alpharetta shoplifting lawyer and ask my questions.

I work in Atlanta for a small, private bank and I hope they don’t find out because it looks bad and my boss, who’s the president of the bank, could fire me. He found out that another employee got arrested and that person was fired fast. I don’t even know what she was charged with but I think it wasn’t a major crime or anything like that, but it was for stealing something.

I don’t know if I’m a typical shoplifting person, but I did go to college at Georgia State University and then I got a Ph.D. in finance from Yale University. So I’m a good person and a smart person and I can’t explain exactly why I did it, maybe my depression. But I’d like to schedule a consultation and discuss my case and I hope you and your firm can help me.

L.P. in Sandy Springs, GA

Answer:  You’ve asked some interesting questions regarding shoplifting, and thank you for writing to us and sharing your thoughts and experiences.

Anybody can get arrested for shoplifting. We’ve had clients who are extremely well-educated, and we’ve had clients with less education. The same is true for wealthier people and people with more modest means. There does not seem to be a correlation between wealth and shoplifting. In other words, people who are rich are as likely to shoplift as people who are poor. Thus, there certainly is no specific “kind of person” who gets charged with shoplifting. It truly can be anybody.

The Georgia shoplifting statute, O.C.G.A. § 16-8-14, makes no distinction for the type of property that is stolen. So whether it’s food or jewelry or a computer, it is treated in the same manner under the law. If the value of the property allegedly stolen is $500.00 or less, then it’s a misdemeanor; if the value exceeds $500.00, then it’s a felony under Georgia law. 

In your question you mention that you suffer from depression. There have been a number of academic research studies that have shown that people with depression are more likely to shoplift than people who do not suffer from that illness.

And, like you, many people who are charged with shoplifting are worried about how the charge will impact their personal life and their job and career. As Georgia shoplifting lawyers, we’ll go over everything with you and plan out a good, smart defense.

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