Property Crimes in Georgia
Georgia laws about property crimes are confusing and complicated to most people. There are many different types of property crimes covered under Georgia law and they carry punishments varying from jail time to fines. Property crimes can include taking a physical item from someone, not paying for a service provided to you, threatening someone to get property, or charging for a job that was never completed.
The Office of Lawson and Berry and their Georgia Property Crime Attorneys have over 20 years experience and are familiar with the subtle differences that distinguish each of the crimes and can help you build a strong defense. Don't wait because you and your loved one's future depends on it. Call us today and schedule a free consultation with one of our property crime lawyers in Georgia. These are just a few examples from the wide field of property crimes:
Armed Robbery: Many people are unaware of the difference between robbery and armed robbery. However, there is a big difference and armed robbery has heightened penalties. The difference between armed robbery and the simple crime of robbery is that during armed robbery, a weapon was used during the taking of the property from another.
Burglary: In Georgia, burglary occurs when a person breaks and enters into any structure with the intent to commit a felony therein such as kidnapping or assault or many other crimes. Georgia law on burglary has changed over the years. Previously, the statute only allowed for burglary to happen at night and to a dwelling. However, Georgia legislators have expanded the law in recent years.
Conversion of Payments for Real Property Improvements: While this crime may seem complicated, it is likely you are familiar with it. Conversion for real property improvements occurs when a contractor uses the proceeds of payments made to him for other purposes than what was intended. For example, a contractor hires a subcontractor to build a porch for a homeowner. After the porch is built, the contractor collects the money from the homeowner but does not pay the subcontractor.
Entering Auto: The crime of entering auto is mostly self explanatory. It occurs when a person enters a vehicle with the intent to commit a theft or a felony. It is a similar offense to burglary.
Hijacking a Motor Vehicle: Hijacking and entering auto are similar criminal offenses. However, hijacking occurs when a person uses a firearm or weapon to gain possession of a motor vehicle. Additionally, they must obtain possession of the vehicle by using force or intimidation.
Hijacking an Aircraft: Hijacking an aircraft can occur in two different ways. The first way is when a person uses force to place the pilot in fear of immediate serious injury and causes the aircraft to deviate from its intended destination. Another way hijacking occurs is when a person uses intimidation or coercion to place the pilot in fear or immediate serious injury to himself or his passengers and the plane is directed to a new location.
Owning, Operating or Conducting a Chop Shop: Chop shops are places where stolen vehicles are disassembled for the purpose of selling the parts. A person convicted under this law will be guilty of a felony. It is also a felony to solicit someone to operate a chop shop, aid or abet someone running a chop shop, or conspire concerning a chop shop.
Possession of Tools for the Commission of a Crime: This crime happens when a person possesses any tool, explosive, or other object normally used in the commission of burglary, theft, or some other crime with the intent to use the tool to commit a crime. A crime does not have to completed for a person to be convicted. Possession of the tools needed to complete the crime will be enough.
Refund Fraud: Refund fraud can occur in a multitude of ways. Similarly to other theft crimes, refund fraud can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the value the property taken.
Removal, Larceny, or Abandonment of Shopping Carts: Many people are unaware that there is a crime related to shopping carts. It is illegal to remove them from the premises without permission from the owner. It is also illegal to abandon them on sidewalks, streets, or in parking lots other than premises of the owner.
Robbery: In Georgia, a person commits robbery when they take property from another person with the intent to commit theft. Robbery can occur by use of force, intimidation, or by a sudden snatching.
Shoplifting: Shoplifting is another theft crime. It occurs when a person takes merchandise without paying for it or by depriving the owner of the merchandise of its value. Shoplifting requires that the accused have the intent to shoplift.
Theft by Bringing Stolen Property into the State: A person commits theft by bringing stolen property into Georgia when they bring property with them that they know or should have known was stolen. The punishment depends on the value of the property.
Theft of Cargo: Theft of cargo occurs in two different ways but in both situations, Georgia law requires that the property is taken with the intent of deprive the other person of the property. Similarly to other theft crimes, the punishment varies depending on the value of the property taken.
Theft by Conversion: Theft by conversion can happen a couple of different ways in Georgia. One ways is when a person takes money from another to use for a specific purpose but uses it for their own use. Another way is when a person takes leased property and converts it for their own use. Lastly, a representation of government or corporations can be guilty of theft by conversion if they fail to pay an account that they received money to pay.
Theft by Conversion for Real Property Improvements: Theft by conversion for real property improvements occurs when a person converts funds intended for real property for any other purposes.
Theft by Deception: There are many different types of theft crimes in Georgia. Theft by deception occurs when a person obtains some property from another through deceitful means. Georgia law outlines 5 ways in which a person can commit theft by deception.
Theft by Extortion: Theft by extortion occurs when a person threatens or intimidates another to gain control over their property. The threat can be directed towards the person, their family, or to their property. Georgia law details 6 ways in which theft by extortion can occur.
Theft of Livestock: Livestock is a valuable commodity in the South and throughout the country. Georgia law defines livestock to include horses, cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, and rabbits. A person has committed theft of livestock when they unlawfully taken the livestock of another with the intent to deprive the owner.
Theft of Lost or Mislaid Property: The saying "finders keepers, losers weepers" actually does not apply in Georgia. You could be guilty of theft of lost or mislaid property when you find something that belongs to someone else and you do not make any attempts to return it to the rightful owner. Reasonable measures must be taken to find the rightful owner before you can claim it as your own.
Theft by Receiving Stolen Property: In Georgia, theft by receiving stolen property happens when a person receives goods that they knew or should have known were stolen. There are four elements to receiving stolen property.
Theft of Services: Theft of services occurs when a person receives a service without intention of paying for it. For example, a person would be guilty of theft of services if they hired a maid and never paid them for the cleaning. Another example is receiving room service and not paying for it.
Theft by Taking: Theft by taking is the most common form of theft in Georgia. It occurs when a person unlawfully takes possession of an item, good, or property that belongs to someone else. It is known as larceny in other states.
Theft of Trade Secrets: Trade secrets are extremely valuable to companies. They include formulas, patterns, client lists, drawings, and other data. Therefore, a punishment for being convicted of theft of trade secrets is heavily punished.
Penalty for a Property Crime Conviction in Georgia
The penalty for the majority of theft crimes depends upon the value of the property taken, stolen, or converted. If the value is less than $500, then the crime will most likely be treated as a misdemeanor. If the value of the property is greater than $500, then the crime will likely be deemed a felony. However, the judge does have the discretion to treat the crime as a misdemeanor or felony. The penalty for a misdemeanor or felony can be a prison sentence or a fine. Judges may allow for a probation to be served instead of jail. In addition to prison time or a fine, you could also have a civil lawsuit filed against you by the victim or be required to pay restitution damages. It is crucial that you have a Georgia Property Crime Attorney that is familiar with the options and can advocate effectively for you.
Georgia Case Law on Property Crimes in Georgia
An example of theft by taking is demonstrated in the case of Graham v. State. The victim searched Craigslist to find a cabinet maker to replace her kitchen cabinets. She found Graham and contracted him to build cabinets for her. Their contract dated September 22 specified a total price of $7,000 paid in three installments. The project was to be completed in 4-5 weeks. The victim paid Graham $2,800 as a down payment. The next four months, the parties communicated through email and Graham would say he needed extra materials or the manufacturer experienced a delay. By March 12, the victim had paid Graham $5,600 with no evidence of her cabinets being constructed. At trial, Graham argued that the victim had changed her mind about measurements and that he did not owe her a refund because they had signed a contract. However, the Court found that Graham accepted money from the victim to build cabinets and did not complete the project nor provide any evidence that the cabinets were being constructed. He also failed to return any money to the victim. Therefore, they found Graham acted with fraudulent intent and was guilty of theft by taking. 337 Ga. App. 664, (2016).
A man was convicted of felony shoplifting in Lockridge v. State. Lockridge was shopping in Home Depot when an employee noticed him acting suspiciously. Asset protection was alerted and they began to follow Lockridge around the store. The specialist noticed Lockridge placing items in an emptied bag of mulch and then putting the bag in the cart with other bags. Lockridge only paid for the bags of mulch and then proceeded to his vehicle. He was stopped in the parking lot and attempted to reach for a knife but was subdued and handcuffed. While waiting for police Lockridge confessed that he didn't pay for the concealed items and that he was sorry. The total price of the stolen goods was $536.80. During court, the jury found the specialist's evidence of observing Lockridge concealing items along with Lockridge's testimony that he stole the items enough to support evidence for a shoplifting conviction. Furthermore, the amount stolen was enough to warrant a felony conviction. 335 Ga. App. 611, (2016).
Defenses to Property Crimes in Georgia
While each crime has defenses that specifically apply to it, some defenses that generally apply to property crimes in Georgia include:
Consent or permission to possess the property: Any writing or evidence that the suspect had permission from the owner to take ownership or control over the property will be a complete defense.
Innocence: If you have an alibi or witness testimony that can support a claim of your innocence, our Attorneys could use that to help obtain an acquittal.
Lack of Evidence: If there is not enough evidence to demonstrate that you completed the crime, then your Attorney can use this to obtain a dismissal of the charges.
Lack of Intent: If you did not mean to commit a crime or lacked the intent to complete the crime, this could be a defense to some of the theft crimes but not all.
Mistake as to the Value of the Property: If the property is valued over $500, then the crime can be charged as a felony. But it if is under $500, it will likely be a misdemeanor.
There are a plethora of other arguments that can be used to defend your case so call one of our Georgia Property Crime Attorneys today. Your Lawyer will tailor a strong defense based on your case.
How Our Georgia Property Crime Attorneys Can Help You
Property crimes encompass a wide range of offenses. Our Georgia Property Crime Lawyers are experienced in property offenses and know how to build a successful defense. Remember, being charged with a crime is not the same as being convicted! Do not give up on your case because you think there is no way a property crime attorney in Georgia can help. There are always defenses you can use. However, it requires the assistance of an experienced lawyer to investigate your case and weight your options. From diversion programs to probation options, we can help negotiate a favorable outcome tailored to your situation.
It is critical that you have an experienced Georgia Property Crime Attorney to navigate the ins and outs of the laws. Your Property Crime Lawyer in Georgia will help defend you against the charges and protect your valuable legal and civil rights. They will be with you every step of the way and they are dedicated to your case. That means they can be reached anytime- days, nights, and weekends. Contact our Georgia Property Crime Lawyers today to schedule a consultation. Don't wait to call because a property crime conviction will have serious consequences.