Why Theft is a Crime

Why Theft is a Crime

thief breaking into a car

Can you go to jail for theft?

For the average person, the statement of, “why theft is a crime”, seems – well, dumb, right? Theft is a crime because it is wrong. But what is considered theft? Any crime where a person takes something that belongs to another without the rightful owner’s permission is a form of theft

Yes, though it will depend on what was taken and the value. In the State of Georgia, theft can be categorized as a felony or a misdemeanor. Theft of property with a value of $500 or less is a misdemeanor. The penalty for a misdemeanor theft is a maximum jail time of one year and a maximum fine of $1,000.

What are the different types of theft?

Theft is rooted in the earliest records of civilization, making it one of the oldest crimes in history. As times have changed and evolved, so has theft. We have gone from stealing a chicken to stealing cars to identity theft. In general, the severity of the theft is related to the dollar value of the property. 

The severity of the punishment in Georgia or any state is based on the value of the allegedly stolen material, prior convictions of the accused, and other factors. A general look over the different types of theft identified in the State of Georgia’s statute is as follows: 

  • Theft by Deception: When a person commits theft by deception, they have deceitfully obtained property with the intention of denying the owner of the stolen property. 
  • Theft by Shoplifting: A shoplifting offense is when a person or persons take merchandise for their own use without paying for the merchandise, depriving the rightful owner possession of the property. 

Is theft a felony?

Theft is a felony when the property involved is worth $500 or more. It is the judge’s discretion to determine the theft as a misdemeanor or a felony offense. If the judge decides it is a felony, the punishment issued can be one to ten years prison time. Other particular circumstances that make the theft a felony in the state of Georgia include:

  • Employee theft of government or bank property. A guilty verdict can be punished with a fine and prison time of  one to fifteen years.
  • Theft of cemetery or gravesite decoration. A guilty verdict can be punished by prison time of one to three years.
  • Theft of a motor vehicle or parts valued at $1,000 or more can be punished with up to ten years in prison if found guilty. 

What are the degrees of theft?

Shoplifting and theft offenses can add up quickly to felony penalties in Georgia. An offense resulting in one-year incarceration is considered a misdemeanor. A punishment of more than one year could become a felony with a fine of $100,000. The state penalizes the majority of theft offenses by the type of theft and the value of the property or service. There are separate penalties for extortion and shoplifting.

Misdemeanor Theft

Property or service valued at a max of $1,500 or less is punishable by up to 1 year of jail time and a fine of $1,000. After 6 months of the sentence is served, the offender may be allowed at the judge’s discretion to complete the sentence on weekends or non-working hours.

With two or more previous theft convictions, the misdemeanor penalty is bumped to a felony wobbler. With this, the judge can decide to impose a 1-year jail sentence as a misdemeanor or a felony with a 1 to a 5-year prison term. 

Wobbler Offenses: Felony or Misdemeanor Theft

Property or service theft of over $1,500 but under $5,000 will carry a prison term of 1 to 5 years. Property or service value over $5,000 and under $25,000 is punishable with a 1 to 10 years prison term.  A wobbler offense means the judge can decide to skip the felony penalty and give the defendant a misdemeanor penalty.

Felony Theft

Felony penalties are handed down for the following theft offenses:  

  • Theft of property or service with a value of  $25,000 or more may be sentenced to incarceration of 2 to 20 years
  • Theft of property containing a breach of a fiduciary agreement may be sentenced to incarceration of 1 to 15 years
  • Theft by a government or financial institution employee involving a breach of duties is punishable by incarceration of 1 to 15 years
  • Theft by deception of any property valued over $500 from a person of 65 year old or older is punishable by 5 to 10 years’ incarceration
  • Theft of anhydrous ammonia in any amount is punishable by 1 to 10 years of incarceration
  • Theft of an explosive, firearm or any destructive device is punishable by incarceration of 1 to 10 years with a 5-year minimum if it is a 2nd or subsequent conviction
  • Theft of a gravesite or memorial is punishable by 1 to 3 years of incarceration.
  • Theft by extortion or threats will carry a penalty with the sentencing of 1 to 10 years prison time. Theft of trade secrets is a misdemeanor up to a $100 value. Over $100 it becomes a felony charge with a punishment of 1 to 5 years of incarceration.

Recidivist Enhancement

Harsh penalties are imposed for repeat felony convictions with the 2nd or a subsequent felony conviction, the maximum sentence will be mandated. In a 4th or subsequent offense, the offender becomes ineligible for parole

What is theft without intent?

In the State of Georgia, theft requires that the person accused of theft has intent to deprive the original owner of their property. The burden is on the prosecution to prove this was the intention. An experienced defense attorney will be able to review and build navigation to disprove the prosecution. 

Theft vs larceny – what is the difference? 

Broadly speaking, “theft” is an umbrella term that many types of stealing are placed under, from identity theft to intellectual theft, and more.  In Georgia, larceny is typically a reference to theft by taking. This means that larceny is physically taking property that belongs to another person. 

burglar breaking into a glass door

In Closing 

One other type of theft that is all too common is the theft of services.  What is theft for services? This crime is when you have received a service and didn’t pay the bill. An example would be skipping out a restaurant tab. If you need help with bail for theft, you can reach out to our team by calling at 706-353-6467.