Have you Been Charged with Theft by Deception?
Under Georgia laws, most theft crimes carry punishments of both confinement and fines. With complex theft laws and legal processes, it is critical to retain counsel to represent you. Lawson and Berry and their team of Georgia Theft Attorneys are knowledgeable about theft laws. It is crucial to have an expert on your side.
The crime of theft by deception means that the state will try to prove that you took something from another through deceitful means. Some examples of this include billing someone for a job that you did not complete, making false statements to convince someone to let you take their property, or selling property knowing that there was a lien or some other loan still on it.
Georgia Law O.C.G.A. §16-8-3 reads as follows:
A person commits the crime of theft by deception when he obtains property by any deceitful means or artful practice with the intention of depriving the owner of the property.
What does Deceive Mean
O.C.G.A. §16-8-3 outlines five ways in which a person deceives another intentionally:
- Creates or confirms another's impression of an existing fact or past event which is false and which the accused knows or believes to be false;
- Fails to correct a false impression of an existing or past even which he has previously created or confirmed;
- Prevents another from acquiring information pertinent to the disposition of the property involved;
- Sells or otherwise transfer or encumbers property intentionally failing to disclose a substantial valid known lien, adverse claim, or another legal impediment to the enjoyment of the property, whether such impediment is or is not a matter of official record; or
- Promises performance of services, which he does not intend to perform or knows, will not be performed.
Deceitful means does not include statements of exaggeration that are unlikely to deceive an ordinary person or false statements as to matters that have no financial significance. It is important to have someone on your side who understands precisely what deceitful means entails in order to properly defend you. Our Georgia Theft by Deception lawyers are experts in their field and will help you understand all of the complex laws that apply to your case.
A suspect was found guilty of theft by deception in Drake v. State. 274 Ga. App. 882, (2005). Items were stolen from the trucks of three separate victims while they parked. The suspect then took the stolen items to a pawnshop to be sold. Representing himself as the legal owner of the tools, he did not disclose to the pawnshop owner that the tools were stolen. The pawnshop relied on the suspect's representations that he was the original owner and purchased the items. The jury found the suspect guilty of theft by deception because the pawn shop would not have purchased the items if they had not relied on his representation of being the owner.
Taking a look at another example, Defendant purchased two drills for a total price of $569.00 and instructed that they should be billed to a construction company. The owner of the shop contacted the construction company and discovered that they did not authorize the purchase of the drills. The Court found the evidence sufficient to find the Defendant guilty of theft by deception because he used deceitful means in order to obtain property. In addition, since the property was valued at more than $500.00, he was guilty of a felony. Tyler v. State, 275 Ga. App. 115, (2005).
An additional example of theft by deception can be found in the Green v. State case. 301 Ga. App. 866, (2010). Defendant's husband went to a house that they thought was abandoned and stole a trailer, appliances, and some tools. When her husband sought to sell the trailer, Defendant told the buyer that the title was good and that her husband had owned the trailer for two years. The Court found Defendant guilty of theft by deception since she lied to the buyer and her lie was the reason he bought the trailer. Even though she wasn't the one who directly stole the trailer or sold it, her misrepresentation was sufficient for her to be convicted.
What Has to be Proven to be Convicted
To be convicted of theft by deception, the prosecution must prove that the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. It is the State's job to prove that the accused made false representations, knowing that they were false, with the intent to deceive and defraud the victim, and, the victim relied on those representations when agreeing to part with their property.
Penalty for Theft by Deception 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 stolen is valued at less than $500, then you will be charged with misdemeanor theft by deception. On the other hand, if the money or property is assessed at more than $500, you will likely be facing felony charges. A judge has the discretion to deem a crime a misdemeanor, even if it the money or property converted was over $500. Every judge is different, and our Georgia Theft by Deception Lawyers will ensure that you have the best defense possible and that you receive fair treatment throughout the trial process.
The penalty for a misdemeanor charge of theft by deception 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.
A felony charge of theft by deception comes with a prison term of no less than one year and no more than ten years. The consequences of having a felony charge can be quite extensive including making it difficult to get a job.
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 on your actions.
Defenses for Theft by Deception
Lack of Intent: The representations made to the victim must be done with the intention of deceiving the victim. If you thought the information was the truth and had no intention of deceiving, then your Georgia Theft by Deception Attorney could use that to help your case.
A false promise of future performance: In the case of Elliott v. State, the suspect was not found guilty of theft by deception when he pledged to make a future payment. 149 Ga. App. 579, (1979). There the accused approached two merchants and expressed a desire to purchase some furniture from them. Because he had a pickup truck with him, the accused asked if he could take the furniture home with him today and then he would come back and pay. They agreed, but the accused never came back to pay. The accused was charged with theft by taking and theft by deception. However, the Court was unable to convict the accused of theft by deception because an essential element is that the false representation must bear upon an existing fact or past event. Theft by deception does not apply to promises for future performance. Therefore, he could not be found guilty of theft by deception, but he was guilty of theft by taking.
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 Theft Attorney will make sure that the property is valued correctly. Testimony by the owner concerning the purchase price without any other evidence will be insufficient evidence to establish that the value of the item or items exceeded $500. Denson v. State. 240 Ga. App. 207, (1999). Also, the cost of the property to the owner is not the final determinate on whether the offense is punishable as a felony or misdemeanor. Baker v. State, 234 Ga. App. 846, (1998). One of the recognized ways to establish value is the fair market cash value either at the time and place of the theft or any stage during the receipt or concealment of the property. Baker v. State.
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.
What are not Defenses
Not everything I said was false: Even if only part of what you said was false, you could still be convicted of theft by deception. 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 victim did not exercise reasonable diligence in preventing the fraud: An example of this can be found in Arnold v. State. 210 Ga. App. 843, (1993). In that case, the victim failed to examine the title offered by the defendant to check and see if they were the true owner. Even though the victim did not exercise reasonable diligence in checking to make sure the defendant was the true owner, the defendant was still found guilty of theft by deception. In sum, a victim not exercising due diligence is not a defense to theft by deception.
A conviction for theft by deception could have grave consequences as explained above. It is critical that you have an experienced Georgia Theft Attorney to navigate the ins and outs of the laws regarding theft by deception. Your Georgia Deception Lawyer 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 Theft by Deception Attorneys to schedule a consultation. Don't wait to call because a theft by deception conviction will have serious consequences.