Have you been Charged with Theft by Receiving in Georgia?
Theft crimes are highly complicated. It is important to have a knowledgeable Lawyer to help guide you along the way. If you or a loved one has been charged with theft by receiving, contact the Law Office of Lawson and Berry to get in touch with one of our Georgia Theft by Receiving Attorneys. Do not wait to call because it can cost you your case.
There are two different sections in Georgia law for theft by receiving. First, Georgia has a statute for theft by receiving stolen property and second, they have one titled theft by receiving property stolen in another state.
Georgia Law on Theft by Receiving Stolen Property
O.C.G.A. §16-8-7(a) states a person commits the offense of theft by receiving stolen property when he receives, disposes of, or retains stolen property which knows or should know was stolen unless the property is received, disposed of, or retained with intent to restore it to the owner. Receiving means, acquiring possession or control or lending on the security of the property.
Elements of Theft by Receiving Stolen Property
Four elements must be met for someone to be guilty of receiving stolen goods:
- that the accused bought or received the goods;
- that the goods had been stolen by some person other than the accused;
- that at the time of so doing the accused knew the same had been stolen; and
- that in doing so the accused acted with criminal intent. Suggs v. State, 59 Ga. App. 331, (1954).
A police officer pulled over a suspect for swerving while driving. The officer noticed that the car belonged to someone else when he ran the registration and asked Defendant if knew the owner. Defendant said his cousin had purchased the car from the proprietor. The officer found a screwdriver in the front passenger seat and observed the car running with no keys in the ignition. The owner of the car told the police that he had not sold the car to anyone and did not know the Defendant. The accused argued at trial that the evidence was insufficient to support a conviction of possession of stolen property because the evidence shows that he was the original thief of the car. However, Defendant previously admitted that his cousin had gotten the car from the owner. Although there was no direct evidence in the case as to who took the car, the Court found there was sufficient evidence to show Defendant had received the car from someone else. In a theft by receiving case, where the original thief is unknown, there is no burden on the State to prove the thief was not the defendant. Therefore, as there was no evidence the defendant, in this case, was the original thief, the jury was able to infer that he was guilty of theft by receiving stolen property. Petty v. State, 271 Ga. App. 547, (2005).
In Ridgeway v. State, the Court found that the Defendant knew or should have known that a dirt bike had been stolen. 310 Ga. App. 6, (2011). Here, officers responded to a theft report of a 49cc dirt bike stolen from a victim's garage. Within 24 hours, a call was received stated that individuals were seen riding a dirt bike two to three miles from where the bike was stolen. After arriving at the scene, the officer asked the suspect about the bike and he stated that he had received the bike from someone named “Joe.” The suspect testified nothing led him to believe the bike was stolen. The Court looked at additional evidence to determine if the defendant knew the dirt bike was stolen. There was proof that the brand new dirt bike had been physically abused in a manner inconsistent with ownership in a 24-hour period and that it had been borrowed from an alleged friend “Joe” with an unknown last name who disappeared after Defendant's arrest. Also, the alleged friend went missing immediately after the Defendant's arrest even though he had lived in the neighborhood for two years. The jury found the evidence sufficient to convict Defendant of theft by receiving stolen property because he should have known it was stolen.
Georgia Law on Theft by Receiving Property Stolen in Another State
O.C.G.A. § 16-8-8 states a person commits the offense of theft by receiving property stolen in another state when he receives, disposes of, or retains stolen property which he knows or should know was stolen in another state, unless the property is received, disposed of, or retained with intent to restore it to the owner.
An example of theft by receiving goods stolen in another state can be found in Mincey v. State. 237 Ga. App. 463 (1999). A suspect was identified as one of the robbers of a pawnshop and was convicted of theft by receiving property stolen in another state, armed robbery, and multiple other charges. The evidence showed that a gold Chevrolet Caprice had been stolen in South Carolina and the locking column on its steering wheel had been broken so it could be driven away. The Defendant argued that there was no evidence showing that he knew or should have known that the car used in the robbery was stolen, but the Court did not think this argument was supported by the evidence. Therefore, he was convicted on all charges.
Concerning the previous case, another one of the defendants was also found guilty of theft by receiving goods stolen in another state, where the property stolen was a car. The state produced evidence that the suspect told the police that he knew his brother had taken a car from another state, that the car was used by him, and other robbers during the robbery and his fingerprints were on the car. This evidence was more than enough for the jury to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Kimble v. State, 236 Ga. App. 391 (1999).
What Has to be Proven to be Convicted
To be guilty of theft by receiving in Georgia, the burden is on the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the transaction occurred, and the defendant had knowledge that the goods were stolen. Knowledge of wrongdoing is an essential element of the crime of receiving stolen property and must be proven to warrant a conviction. This knowledge does not have to be established by direct testimony, but it can be shown through circumstantial evidence, such as the defendant's conduct and behavior, the character of the person from whom the goods were received, what kind of goods were received, and the time of day when received. Where the evidence against a defendant is only circumstantial, for the conviction to be upheld, the evidence must be enough to rule out any other explanations than that of the defendant's guilty. Ga. Code Ann. §38-109.
Penalty for Theft by Receiving in Georgia
The penalty for theft by receiving stolen property can be a misdemeanor or felony in Georgia depending on the value of the goods taken. When the theft involves property valued at $500 or less, then the crime will be deemed a misdemeanor in Georgia. The consequences of a misdemeanor include a fine of no more than $1,000 and no more than 12 months in jail. If a defendant receives a jail term of six months or less, then the judge has the ability and discretion to allow the sentence to be served via weekend confinement or during the defendant's nonworking hours.
If the theft involves property worth more than $500, then the crime will be deemed a felony, or could also be a misdemeanor, depending on the judge. Judges have the discretion to decide how it should be treated and punished. If charged with a felony you will face a sentence of no less than one-year confinement, but no more than ten years.
There are particular circumstances in which theft is punished as a felony in Georgia. Included in this are:
- Theft of government or bank property by an employee. If found guilty of this, the consequence is a one to 15-year prison sentence and/or a fine.
- Theft involving a gravesite or cemetery decoration. This carries a punishment of one to three years in prison.
- Theft of a motor vehicle or a part of a motor vehicle worth more than $1,000. Here, you could be punished by one to 10 years in prison.
In addition to a prison sentence or fine, there are other consequences of committing theft by receiving stolen property. 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 of the claim is less than $5,000)
- Or the costs of bringing the suit against you
Defenses in Georgia for a Charge of Theft by Receiving
I was unaware that the property was stolen: If you purchased property not knowing that it was stolen, you could be found not guilty. However, you have to prove that a reasonable person would not have known or had reason to know that the property was stolen. This is a difficult defense to prove, but your Georgia Theft Lawyer could help establish that you lawfully purchased property.
I had permission to claim the property: Under O.C.G.A. §16-8-10(2), if you acted under an honest claim of right to the property, then that is an appropriate defense to theft by receiving stolen property. An example of this is if had permission to reclaim a motorcycle because the purchasers had defaulted on their payments. Edens v. State, 197 Ga. App. 146, (1990).
I have already been convicted of robbery for that offense: You cannot be convicted of both robbery and theft by receiving for the same crime. A conviction would be based on evidence sufficient to authorize a conviction for either offense. Thomas v. State, 261 Ga. 854, (1992).
Lack of Intent: Because theft by receiving is a specific intent crime, which means that you were required to have the intent to commit the offense, without it, you cannot be convicted. Your Georgia Theft Attorney could use this defense along with others to try and prove your innocence or to create doubt in the jury's mind.
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.
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. Therefore, it is important to make sure they have valued the property 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.
Possession of stolen property alone is not sufficient to meet the knowledge requirement: The prosecution must show some evidence to infer knowledge required by the statute. Evidence combined with possession can authorize conviction, but possession alone will not warrant a conviction. Pate v. State, 158 Ga. App. 395, (1999).
What are not Defenses
I didn't know that the property was stolen: The knowledge that the goods were stolen can be deduced from conduct and behavior of the defendant along with examining the character of the person from whom the goods were received and the type of goods. There does not have to be direct evidence that you stole the items because it can be inferred from other evidence. Prather v. State, 116 Ga. App. 696, (1967).
Also, the knowledge requirement can be satisfied if the defendant either knows or should have known that the property was stolen. Knowledge in a theft by receiving case may be inferred from circumstances, which would excite the suspicions of an ordinarily prudent man. State v. Bradbury, 167 Ga. App. 390, (1983). This means that as long as a reasonably practical person would suspect that goods were stolen or should have expected them to be taken, then that will still satisfy the knowledge requirement.
Call The Law Offices of Lawson and Berry to speak with one of our Georgia Theft by Receiving 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.