Sunday, November 21, 2010

Theft by Shoplifting - What to do?

What is Theft by Shoplifting?

If you or someone you know has been charged with Theft by Shoplifting, then you need to know some basics.  Please be aware that these are just the basics.   The official code section is O.C.G.A. § 16-8-14.

Georgia Definition of Theft by Shoplifting

A person commits the offense of theft by shoplifting when he alone or in concert with another person, with the intent of appropriating merchandise to his own use without paying for the same or to deprive the owner of possession thereof or of the value thereof, in whole or in part, does any of the following:

(1)   Conceals or takes possession of the goods or merchandise of any store or retail establishment;

(2)   Alters the price tag or other price marking on goods or merchandise of any store or retail establishment;

(3)   Transfers the goods or merchandise of any store or retail establishment from one container to another;

(4)   Interchanges the label or price tag from one item of merchandise with a label or price tag for another item of merchandise; or

(5)   Wrongfully causes the amount paid to be less than the merchant's stated price for the merchandise.

Most convictions are obtained based upon (1) above.  It is important to realize that a person does not have to actually take the merchandise out of the store in order to be charged.

Punishment for Theft by Shoplifting

If the property allegedly stolen is less than $300 in value, then the offense is a simple misdemeanor and the max punishment is one year of confinement and a $1000 fine.  If the property value is $300 or more, the offense is a felony and the possible sentence is a maximum of 10 years.

Finally, a fourth shoplifting offense is automatically treated as a felony regardless of the property value.

Possible Defenses to Theft by Shoplifting

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of all possible defenses.  Every situation is unique and must be considered based upon the facts associated with the specific case.  Having said that, here are some things to consider.

  1. Not me – you got the wrong guy (or gal).
  2. I was going to pay.  (Read the cases below)
  3. The property does not cost $300. (for felony cases)
  4. Mistake – I didn’t realize I didn’t pay for that.

Interesting Cases concerning Theft by Shoplifting

Racquemore v. State, 204 Ga. App. 88, 418 S.E.2d 448 (1992) - The state proved the element of intent to appropriate the merchandise for defendant's own use, where defendant was seen stuffing two packages of meat into the waist of defendant's trousers and pulling defendant's shirt down over them, but returned the meat to the display case after the store security guard and store manager started watching defendant's actions and following defendant.

Taylor v. State, 270 Ga. App. 637, 607 S.E.2d 163 (2004) - Because a co-manager of a grocery store saw defendant, who was pushing a shopping cart, take a package of ham hocks and some tomatoes and place them in defendant's purse, and when defendant approached the checkout counter, the co-manager confronted defendant and defendant retreated into the store and discarded the two items on a display, the evidence was sufficient to support a shoplifting conviction; the question of whether defendant's placement of the goods in the purse showed an intent to commit theft by shoplifting was one for the jury and the conviction was affirmed.

Simmons v. State, 278 Ga. App. 372, 629 S.E.2d 86 (2006) - Defendant's act of concealing liquor bottles in the defendant's pants, with no intent to pay for them, despite the fact that the defendant put the bottles back on the shelf before leaving the store, was sufficient to support a conviction.

What should I do?

Pick up the phone and call.  My office number is 678-383-1690.  I will discuss your case with you and help you determine what the next step is.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Removal from Georgia Sex Offender Registry


            In most cases, the most severe criminal sanction involves incarceration.  However, in cases involving sex offenses, a lifelong requirement to register as a sex offender is a disastrous consequence preventing individuals from obtaining employment and pursuing other endeavors.   Many defendants find the lifelong registration requirement devastating.

            There is good news.  Recently, the legislature enacted O.C.G.A. § 42-1-9, a means by which certain Sex Offenders may seek removal from the Sex Offender Registry.  It is not easy and it is not available to every offender.  The first step is to determine eligibility.


Everyone on the registry wants to be removed.  What does it take?  To be eligible, the offender must fall in one of the four categories:

1.)      Disabled Persons:  The Offender must have completed all prison, parole, supervised release, and probation for the offense which required registration pursuant to Code Section 42-1-12; and

·        be confined to a hospice facility, skilled nursing home, residential care facility for the elderly, or nursing home; or
·        be totally and permanently disabled as such term is defined in Code Section 49-4-80; or
·        be otherwise seriously physically incapacitated due to illness or injury;

2.)      Romeo & Juliet:  The Offender was sentenced for a crime that became punishable as a misdemeanor on or after July 1, 2006, and meets the criteria set forth in subparagraphs (c)(1)(A) through (c)(1)(F) of Code Section 17-10-6.2;

3.)      Non-sexual Offense:  The Offender was required to register solely because he or she was convicted of kidnapping or false imprisonment involving a minor and such offense did not involve a sexual offense against such minor or an attempt to commit a sexual offense against such minor. For purposes of this paragraph, the term "sexual offense" means any offense listed in division (a)(10)(B)(i) or (a)(10)(B)(iv) through (a)(10)(B)(xix) of Code Section 42-1-12; or

4.)      Everyone Else:  The Offender has completed all prison, parole, supervised release, and probation for the offense which required registration pursuant to Code Section 42-1-12 and meets the criteria set forth in subparagraphs (c)(1)(A) through (c)(1)(F) of Code Section 17-10-6.2. and

·        either ten years have elapsed since the end of the sentence or
·        the Offender is considered a Level I risk by the Sex Offender Review Board.

The disqualifiers mentioned in O.C.G.A. § 17-10-6.2 are:

(A)   The defendant has no prior conviction of an offense prohibited by Chapter 6 of Title 16 or Part 2 of Article 3 of Chapter 12 of Title 16, nor a prior conviction for any offense under federal law or the laws of another state or territory of the United States which consists of the same or similar elements of offenses prohibited by Chapter 6 of Title 16 or Part 2 of Article 3 of Chapter 12 of Title 16;

(B)   The defendant did not use a deadly weapon or any object, device, or instrument which when used offensively against a person would be likely to or actually did result in serious bodily injury during the commission of the offense;

(C)   The court has not found evidence of a relevant similar transaction;

(D)   The victim did not suffer any intentional physical harm during the commission of the offense;

(E)    The offense did not involve the transportation of the victim; and

(F)    The victim was not physically restrained during the commission of the offense.

Next Steps

            If you meet the eligibility requirements, then you may file a Petition for Removal from the Sex Offender Registry.  Additional requirements exist regarding venue, proper service of the petition, proper requirements for requesting a hearing, and necessary requests for relief.   Therefore, the assistance of legal counsel is critical.  Should your Petition fail for some reason, you must wait two years to file another Petition.

If you need help, call me at 678-383-1690 or visit my website at If for whatever reason I can't help you, I'll point you in the direction of someone who can.