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Shoplifting convictions lead to serious penalties

When you were younger, you may have taken something from a grocery store or convenience market on a dare or just to see if you could get away with it. You may have felt a rush when you stepped out of the store with the gum, candy or lip balm in your pocket, or maybe you made it home with something more expensive that you couldn't have paid for otherwise.

Shoplifting is not just a kid's prank. Each year, U.S. retailers lose billions of dollars to theft, including items employees steal. Many retail stores spend an enormous portion of their budgets on anti-theft systems, cameras and security guards. They also willingly spend whatever it takes to prosecute shoplifters.

Your actions and intentions

If you are facing charges of shoplifting, you risk serious penalties. While the laws in many states include shoplifting with other theft crimes, in Georgia, shoplifting is its own offense. For authorities to charge you with shoplifting, you do not have to actually take an item from the store. If a store clerk or security guard suspects you of attempting to steal, you may find yourself facing shoplifting charges under any of the following conditions:

  • You change the price tags on an item with tags from a lower priced item to avoid paying full price.
  • You put a more expensive item into a container for a lower priced item or into a container you brought with you.
  • You change the amount on an item's price tag.
  • You hide an item, such as putting it in your pocket or under your shirt.

It is a myth that you must leave the store with the item before someone can stop you. Concealing it in your clothes or bag may be enough for authorities to assume you intend to steal it.

Your defense

Of course, it is common for a clerk or other employee to wrongly accuse someone of shoplifting. This may happen when the clerk mistakes you for someone else who has shoplifted in the past or when you happen to have with you an item you previously purchased at that store. You may forget you have an unpaid item in your possession, or you may try to purchase an item on which someone else has switched the price tags.

No matter the circumstances, you do not want to leave your future to chance if you are facing shoplifting charges. The penalties for a conviction include a jail sentence, fines and a permanent criminal record. You would be wise to have legal counsel to guide you through the process so that you have a better opportunity for a more positive outcome.

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