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Does Georgia treat theft as a felony or misdemeanor?

On Behalf of | May 30, 2024 | Theft & Property Crimes

Theft and other property crimes are among the most common reasons that people face arrest and prosecution in Georgia. From teenagers accused of shoplifting to adult professionals facing allegations of embezzlement, there are many different forms of theft that can lead to criminal penalties for those accused of misappropriating the resources of others.

Many people think of theft as a minor offense, especially when there is no violence involved in the incident. People believe that the courts may only impose minor penalties and are likely to charge them with a misdemeanor. However, some people accused of theft offenses in Georgia face more serious penalties than others. The state can theoretically charge individuals with felony theft offenses in some scenarios.

Resource type and value determine the charges

Georgia law largely relies on the overall value of the stolen assets to categorize a theft offense as either a misdemeanor or a felony. The cutoff used to be higher, but lawmakers adjusted it to $500. If the total value of the misappropriated resources is more than $500, prosecutors are likely to bring felony charges. That applies even in shoplifting cases where there is little risk of other people incurring injuries.

There are also certain types of property that carry enhanced charges. For example, the intentional theft of a grave marker from a cemetery is typically a felony offense regardless of the alleged value of the grave marker. Georgia law also treats certain other theft offenses as more serious.

Some kinds of theft are felonies because of the increased risk for the other people involved. Armed robbery and burglary are often felony offenses, as is theft of a motor vehicle. Shoplifting from three different stores in the same county within three days can also be a felony offense.

If the item stolen is anhydrous ammonia, a vehicle, a destructive device, an explosive or a firearm, the defendant may face felony charges. Felony charges carry higher fines and longer potential periods of incarceration. They also have a more serious effect on an individual’s opportunities, as those performing background checks tend to give more weight to felony offenses than misdemeanor convictions.

Learning more about how the state handles theft charges can be beneficial for those recently arrested. Those who understand the rules are in the best possible position to plan a defense strategy in response to the allegations they face.