Have You Been Charged with Theft by Refund Fraud in Georgia?
Georgia laws about theft charges are confusing and complicated to most people. A charge of theft by refund fraud must be carefully evaluated and investigated by a competent Georgia Theft Lawyer. Lawson and Berry and their team of Georgia Refund Fraud Lawyers are familiar with the subtle differences that distinguish each of the theft 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.
Georgia Law on Refund Fraud
O.C.G.A. § 16-8-14.1 outlines two ways in which a person can commit refund fraud:
First, by giving a false or fictitious name or address without that person's approval or permission to obtain a refund from a store or retail establishment for merchandise.
Second, by obtaining a refund in the form of cash, check, credit on a credit or debit card, a merchant gift card, or credit in any other form from a store or retail establishment using a driver's license or other information not issued to such person, a driver's license containing false information.
The Penalty for Refund Fraud in Georgia
As with other theft crimes, whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony depends on the value of the money or property stolen. If the property that was the subject of the fraud is less than $500, then you will be charged with misdemeanor refund fraud. The penalty for a misdemeanor charge in Georgia includes a fine of no more than $1,000 and a sentence of no more than 12 months confinement. If a defendant receives a jail sentence of six months or less, the judge has the ability and discretion to allow the sentence to be served via weekend confinement or during the defendant's nonworking hours.
On the other hand, if the amount was more than $500, you will be facing felony charges and a prison term between one and ten years. Furthermore, it will also be a felony if a person takes property from three separate stores or retail establishments within one county during a period of seven days or less and when the aggregate value of the property which was the subject of each fraud exceeds $500.00. The punishment will be a prison term between one and ten years. Lastly, refund fraud has occurred if a person takes property with an aggregate value of $500 over a period of 180 days. It will also be treated as a felony with the punishment of one to ten years in prison. O.C.G.A. §16-8-14.1(b)
A second conviction for refund fraud in Georgia will be punished according to O.C.G.A. §16-8-14.1(b) along with a fine of at least $500.00.
A third conviction for theft by refund fraud in Georgia will be punished as a felony and in addition to any fine or prison term imposed, shall also be punished by imprisonment for not less than 30 days or confinement in a “special alternative incarceration-probation boot camp,” probation detention center, or other community correctional facility of the Department of Corrections for a period of 120 days or shall be sentenced to monitored house arrest for a period of 120 days and, in addition to such types of confinement, may be required to undergo psychological evaluation and treatment to be paid for by the defendant; and such sentence of imprisonment or confinement shall not be suspended, probated, deferred, or withheld.
A fourth or subsequent conviction shall be punished as a felony with a punishment of a prison term between one and ten years and the first year of such sentence shall not be suspended, probated, deferred, or withheld.
A judge has the discretion to deem a crime a misdemeanor, even if the value was greater than $500. Every judge is different, and that is why it is important to have a Georgia Theft by Refund Fraud Lawyer that can try and lessen your sentence and make sure you are treated fairly through the process.
In addition to a prison sentence or fine, there are other consequences of committing theft. The person you stole from could bring a civil action against you for damages. They could sue you and recover monetary damages. The monetary damages could include:
- Compensatory damages which would include the value of the property and any other loss sustained as a result of the theft
- Liquidated exemplary damages amounting to $150 or twice the value of the loss (as long as the total amount is less than $5,000)
- Or the costs of bringing the suit against you
- Restitution damages for any damages or harm that came to the victims because of your actions.
Georgia Defenses to Refund Fraud
Approval: If the accused had permission to obtain the refund, then that would be a complete defense. However, evidence demonstrating consent would be required.
The property was not valued at more than $500: Whether your crime will be treated as a felony or a misdemeanor depends on the value of the property stolen. Furthermore, your Georgia Refund Fraud Attorney will make sure that the property is valued correctly.
Innocence: If you have an alibi or witness testimony proving that you did not commit the crime, that evidence will be vital to you in court. Your Lawyer will use this evidence to help you receive an acquittal.
Lack of Intent: If you accidentally received someone else's refund but intended to obtain your own, that would be very helpful. Your Georgia Theft by Refund Fraud Attorney could use this defense along with others to try and prove your innocence or to create doubt in the jury's mind.
What are Not Defenses to Theft by Refund Fraud in Georgia
Not everything I said was false: Even if only part of what you said was false, you could still be convicted of theft by refund fraud if it was enough false information to obtain another's refund. As long as some of the representations are found to be criminal in nature (i.e. made with the intent to defraud), then you will still be guilty. Cross v. State, 126 Ga. App. 346, (1972).
The stores did not exercise reasonable diligence in preventing the fraud: Stores or other establishments have to ask security questions and other personal information to prove identity. If the accused had the correct answers, then the store did exercise due diligence when handing out the refund.
Call The Law Offices of Lawson and Berry to speak with one of our Georgia Refund Fraud Lawyers and schedule a free consultation. Formulating a defense on your own can be overwhelming and seemingly impossible. Our Attorneys are highly knowledgeable and will assist you in formulating the best possible defense for your case. We will walk you through every step of the process, and we are dedicated to being accessible to you- days, nights, weekends, and holidays while working hard on your behalf. Your Attorney will make sure you understand all of your options and advise you on the best approach to take for your case based on their many years of experience. Don't wait to contact one of our Lawyers. Your future is at stake. Do not sit around waiting for your case to resolve itself.