Have you been Charged with Theft of Services in Georgia?
Georgia laws about theft charges are confusing and complicated to most people. A charge of theft of services must be carefully evaluated and investigated by a competent Attorney, who is knowledgeable in the field of theft laws. Lawson and Berry and their team of Georgia Theft of Services 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 O.C.G.A. §16-8-16 reads as follows:
When a person commits the offense of theft by services when by deception and with the intent to avoid payment, he knowingly obtains services, accommodations, entertainment, or the use of personal property which is available only for compensation.
Some examples of theft of services can include not paying for maid service, hotel room, or a meal. The crime of theft of services was formed to provide service providers with a way to collect a fee that they are due.
A woman named Jacqueline Jackson applied for a lease on a home but did not qualify by herself. She then got someone else named Curtis Knowles to submit an application with Jackson listed as the occupant of the house. However, Knowles did not sign the leasing agreement or pay the required $1,000 deposit. Jackson started to move into the house anyhow and went to the County Water Department to set up the water. The water company had not received a notice that there was an executed lease for the property, so they refused to turn the water on. Later that month, the Water Department realized that someone had turned the water on by cutting the padlock on the meter box so they could manually turn it on. The Department put the second padlock on the box and came back to find that one broken too. Jackson was arrested and charged with theft of services among other things. She tried to argue in Court that there was not enough evidence to support her conviction. Her argument failed because she knowingly turned on the water with the intent to take water from the county without paying for it. Therefore, she was found guilty of theft of services. Jackson v. State, 301 Ga. App. 406, (2009).
What Must be Proven for a Conviction
To be guilty of the crime of theft of services, the State must demonstrate that the suspect knowingly took something and intended to avoid payment beyond a reasonable doubt. One of our experienced Georgia Theft of Services Attorneys can help create doubt in the prosecution's case.
Penalty for Theft of Services 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 of services. 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 that is why it is important to have a Georgia Theft of Services Lawyer that can try and lessen your sentence and make sure you are treated fairly through the process.
The penalty for a misdemeanor charge of theft of services 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 of services 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 in Georgia
Lack of Intent: The State must show that you intended to obtain services without paying for them. If you can prove that you accidentally received something, or it was a mistake, then your Lawyer may be able to negate the intent element.
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. Furthermore, your Georgia Theft of Services 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.
What are not Defenses
I didn't intentionally deceive; I just used someone else's' information: Using another person's name or stolen identification to obtain housing or other services is not a defense to theft of services. If you didn't intend to pay for the services and another person did not give you permission to use their information, then you will be found guilty of theft of services. Nichols v. State, 210 Ga. App. 134, (1993).
No one else was using the place: Even if the dwelling is empty and it does not appear anyone has been there in a long time, unauthorized entry is one of the practices associated with obtaining accommodations included in the theft of services statute. The unauthorized use of electricity, water, or electrical energy is considered of the forms of obtaining services and is, therefore, a crime. Phillips v. State, 204 Ga. App. 698, (1992).
A conviction for theft of services could have grave consequences as explained above. It is critical that you have an experienced Georgia Theft of Services Attorney to navigate the ins and outs of the laws regarding theft by conversion. Your Georgia Theft of Services 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 Attorneys to schedule a consultation. Don't wait to call because a theft of services conviction will have serious consequences.