Although religious scholars broke it down further, the original “thou shalt not steal” invective was only one rule. Modern Georgia law technically contains six theft prohibitions. However, my web guy said people are more likely to read odd-numbered listicles (five reasons why, seven reasons why, etc.). So, we’ll go with five for purposes of this post.
The original ten commandments didn’t fix the punishments for carving graven images and other violations. These punishments came later as well. In Georgia, the punishment usually depends on the amount of goods or services at issue. Usually, the published asking price of a good or service is conclusive. Otherwise, the owner’s assessment of the value is usually conclusive.
According to the Bible, Moses or one of his minions ruled on Ten Commandment and other legal violations. Apparently, accused people didn’t have lawyers. Today, a jury ultimately determines the facts, and a Marietta criminal defense attorney represents the accused. As we recently saw in the Britney Griner saga, these two things make a world of difference.
Generally, this offense is taking property with the intent to deprive the owner of its full value. Single party shoplifting is classic putting-an-item-under-your-coat shoplifting. Under-ringing merchandise at a self-checkout stand is also a form of single party shoplifting. Dual party shoplifting involves an accomplice. Homer brings a tube of toothpaste and a DVD to a register and Marge only rings up the tube of toothpaste. Then, she and Homer watch their ill-gotten movie on date night.
Some law enforcement agencies don’t respond to shoplifting calls if the value of the goods was under $50 or $100, depending on the jurisdiction. Most law enforcement agencies don’t aggressively pursue any shoplifting cases. Since an insurance company usually reimburses the retailer, criminal authorities often consider shoplifting to be a civil matter.
If the case does go to court, the owner’s identity is often an issue. Generally, arresting officers name a store security guard as the property owner. That’s legally permissible, since the store security guard has a greater right of access to the merchandise than the defendant. By the time the case goes to trial, the store security guard is often nowhere to be found. That leaves the state without its material witness.
Theft of Services
Skipping out on a meal at a restaurant is theft of services. So is returning rental property past the due date. Failure to pay your doctor or Marietta criminal defense lawyer is technically theft of services as well. But authorities almost never prosecute such matters.
Many theft of services cases seem unusual or even petty. Some people may remember a 2018 incident at an Arby’s in Montana. Police arrested a man who poured soda into a free water cup. At least, that’s what the headlines said. There was a little more to the story. The man also assaulted an Arby’s worker who confronted him and then resisted arrest in a nearby Denny’s bathroom.
On a related note, Super Bowl parties, even if the host doesn’t charge admission, are technically theft of services. These broadcasts only have individual use licenses.
However, authorities usually don’t prosecute these matters either. The thirsty thief in Montana could have walked out of the restaurant if he hadn’t assaulted the worker. Authorities typically see exceeding a license, which is similar to unlawful password sharing, as civil matters as well.
Lost Property Theft
In the schoolyard, and in civil law as well, it’s finders keepers when it comes to misplaced or lost property. However, in Georgia, it’s a criminal offense if a person “appropriates [lost or mislaid] property to his own use without first taking reasonable measures to restore the property to the owner.”
Rather disturbingly, Section 16-8-6 contains a three strikes provision. If the defendant has two prior theft convictions, the third one, even if it’s a misdemeanor, could be charged as a felony with a maximum five years in prison.
No reasonable possibility of restoring the property could be a defense to this crime. If Bart finds a $100 bill in Milhouse’s front yard, he could have reasonably found the owner. If Bart finds a $100 bill in the Kwik-E-Mart parking lot, it could have belonged to anybody.
Lack of knowledge could be a defense as well, mostly because there’s a difference between lost and discarded. If Bart finds a gold ring in a trashcan, it’s reasonable to assume someone intentionally threw it away.
Theft by Deception
This offense is a bit like fraud, which is an intentional misstatement of a current fact to illegally obtain property or services. Theft by deception could be:
- Creating or confirming another person’s false impression of an existing fact or past event,
- Failing to correct a false impression of an existing or prior fact,
- Preventing another person from acquiring relevant information about the property or service,
- Selling, transferring, or encumbering property while intentionally failing to disclose a substantial and valid known lien, adverse claim, or another legal impediment, or
- Promising performance of services which he does not intend to perform or knows will not be performed.
Many of these acts are very subjective. Assume Meyers hires Otto to drive a charter bus. A week before the trip, he breaks his wrist. He doesn’t show up to drive the bus, even though he’s been paid. Otto may be guilty of something, but he’s probably not guilty of theft by deception. He intended to drive the bus when he took the money.
Theft by Extortion
This offense is a lot like robbery. A big difference is that robbery involves an imminent threat of violence, whereas theft by extortion doesn’t involve an immediate threat. Most other states have extortion laws as well. However, in Georgia, the threat, whether it’s to do violence, accuse someone of a criminal offense, or otherwise blackmail the person, doesn’t have to be reasonable or credible.
Voluntary intoxication could be a defense to this form of theft and most others as well. Generally, theft is a specific intent crime. The defendant must intend both the conduct (taking property) and the result (depriving the owner of the property). As a matter of law, people with alcohol-soaked brains cannot commit specific intent crimes.
There’s a difference between a criminal charge and a criminal conviction. For a free consultation with an experienced Marietta criminal defense lawyer, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. We routinely handle matters in Cobb County and nearby jurisdictions.