Theft by Taking Laws in Georgia

Theft by Taking Laws in Georgia

Theft by Taking in Georgia

Learn about theft laws in Georgia which range from simple shoplifting and theft by taking to elaborate theft by deception and extortion.

Theft vs. Larceny

In Georgia, theft crimes fall under the general heading of Theft by Taking. Many other states refer to theft as larceny. Relative to legal application they mean the same thing.

As noted on the FindLaw website, Georgia Code Title 16 O.C.G.A. 16-8-2, defines theft by taking in the following manner, “A person commits the offense of theft by taking when he unlawfully takes or, being in lawful possession thereof, unlawfully appropriates any property of another with the intention of depriving him of the property, regardless of the manner in which the property is taken or appropriated.”1.

Factors That Establish Validity of Charges

To prosecute an assertion of theft by taking, the alleged criminality must involve several specific elements. Combined, the elements serve to legally demonstrate that the action was, in fact, a crime. Generally speaking, in order to obtain a conviction for larceny charges, the prosecution must establish and/or prove:

Theft is perhaps one of the oldest crimes in the world. To classify as theft it is easy to consider what is cited on the Fearless.org website, stating that theft “has five main elements that are used to establish it as a criminal offence. These are: appropriation, property, property belonging to another, dishonesty, and the intention to permanently deprive.”2

  • Ownership of Property. This is the basis for determining who should or should have a rightful claim to, and possess, the property. This is usually very easy to determine by way of receipts, photos of the property with the real owner, and witness corraboration.
    Another element of ownership, relative to proving larceny, is that the alleged criminal possession exists without consent of the owner.
  • Value of Property. which will determine whether the charge of larceny (theft) is a misdemeanor or felony crime. Determining the value of stolen property can often be argued to affect the charge being held to only a misdemeanor.
    How is value determined? Proving the value may start with original purchase receipts, current online sales prices (fair market value), and professional appraisals. If the value of stolen property is hotly contested, the judge may order a restitution hearing to formally address the issue of value.
  • Possession (Custody). This applies to a person having physical control over property without restrictions on that control. If the non-owner has possession of the property the validity of the charge of theft increases.
  • Intent to Deprive. This is perhaps the most important part of proving the carge of larceny. Intent to deprive effectively means that the alleged perpetrator has taken control of the property in a way that the true owner is denied its use and enjoyment.
    Intent to deprive could apply even if the property is established to be owned by both parties, provided that one owner is preventing the use and enjoyment of the property.

Felony Theft or Misdemeanor Theft?

In Georgia, the determination of felony theft or misdemeanor theft is done based on the value of the property stolen. In states that use the term larceny, a felony is referred to as Grand larceny, while a misdemeanor is referred to as Pettit Larceny.

Misdemeanor Theft by Taking is applicable when the value of the property stolen is determined to be $1,500 or less.

Felony Theft by Taking is applicable when the value of the property stolen is determined to be greater than $1,500.

Theft and Civil Lawsuits

Aside from potential criminal prosecution, persons alleged to have committed theft may be sued in civil court. Civil actions for theft matters are common where loss of money is involved. Bipper Media recently posted an article which states, “Victims of theft can also file a lawsuit. They can sue the defendant to recover monetary damages. It can include the value of the property or any loss from theft.”3

Common Types of Theft in Georgia

Theft by Taking, O.C.G.A. 16-8-2

A person commits the offense of theft of theft by taking when he unlawfully takes or, being in lawful possession thereof, unlawfully appropriates any property of another with the intention of depriving him of the property, regardless of the manner in which the property is taken or appropriated.

  • Unlawfully taking someones property
  • Being in possession of stolen property
  • Unlawful appropriation of someones property
  • Deliberate adverse possession

Theft by Deception, O.C.G.A. 16-8-3

A person commits the offense of theft by deception when he obtains property by any deceitful means or artful practice with the intention of depriving the owner of the property. A person deceives if he intentionally:

  • Creates or confirms another’s impression of an existing fact or past event which is false and which the accused knows or believes to be false;
  • Fails to correct a false impression of an existing fact or past event which he has previously created or confirmed;
  • Prevents another from acquiring information pertinent to the disposition of the property involved;
  • Sells or otherwise transfers or encumbers property intentionally failing to disclose a substantial and valid known lien, adverse claim, or other legal impediment to the enjoyment of the property; or
  • Promises performance of services which he does not intend to perform or knows will not be performed.

Theft by Conversion, O.C.G.A. 16-8-4

A person commits the offense of theft by conversion when, having lawfully obtained funds or other property of another including, but not limited to, leased or rented personal property, under an agreement or other known legal obligation to make a specified application of such funds or a specified disposition of such property, he knowingly converts the funds or property to his own use in violation of the agreement or legal obligation.

  • Failure to pay on an account
  • Failure to return rental equipment
  • Sells property owned by someone else
  • Sublet a home without owner’s permission
  • Cashing or depositing a check made out to someone else

Theft of Services, O.C.G.A. 16-8-5

A person commits the offense of theft of 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.

  • Unauthorized dumping in a dumpster owned by others
  • Illegally accessing internet services from a subscriber
  • Illegally accessing cable television services from a subscriber
  • Failure to pay for lodging or accomodations
  • Failure to pay for a meal or entertainment

Theft of Lost or Mislaid Property, O.C.G.A. 16-8-6

A person commits the offense of theft of theft of lost or mislaid property when he comes into control of property that he knows or learns to have been lost or mislaid and appropriates the property to his own use without first taking reasonable measures to restore the property to the owner.

  • Keeping a lost domesticated animal who appears to be the property of others
  • Taking property of others that was set down by the owner (not discarded)
  • Keeping a misdelivered parcel or package

Theft by Receiving, O.C.G.A. 16-8-7

A person commits the offense of theft of theft by receiving stolen property when he receives, disposes of, or retains stolen property which he 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. (In any prosecution under this Code section it shall not be necessary to show a conviction of the principal thief)

  • Receives property which knows or should know was stolen
  • Retains property which knows or should know was stolen
  • Disposes property which knows or should know was stolen

Theft by Receiving (Stolen in Another State), O.C.G.A. 16-8-8

A person commits the offense of theft 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.

  • Receives property which knows or should know was stolen
  • Retains property which knows or should know was stolen
  • Disposes property which knows or should know was stolen

Theft by Bringing, O.C.G.A. 16-8-9

A person commits the offense of theft by bringing stolen property into this state when he brings into this state any property which he knows or should know has been stolen in another state.

  • Bringing into Georgia any property stolen in another state
  • Conspring to have others bring into Georgia any property stolen in another state
  • Directly causing property stolen in another state to enter Georgia

Theft of Trade Secrets, O.C.G.A. 16-8-13

A person commits the offense of theft of trade secrets when any person who, with the intent to deprive or withhold from the owner thereof the exclusive use of a trade secret, or with an intent to appropriate a trade secret to his or her own use or to the use of another.

  • Takes or uses trade secrets for their own purposes
  • Discloses trade secrets to unauthorized third parties
  • Acquires trade secrets by unethical or illegal means
  • Reproduces or copies trade secrets without authority of owner

Theft by Shoplifting, O.C.G.A. 16-8-14

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

  • Conceals or takes possession of the goods or merchandise of any store or retail establishment;
  • Alters the price tag or other price marking on goods or merchandise of any store or retail establishment;
  • Transfers the goods or merchandise of any store or retail establishment from one container to another;
  • Interchanges the label or price tag from one item of merchandise with a label or price tag for another item of merchandise; or
  • Wrongfully causes the amount paid to be less than the merchant’s stated price for the merchandise.

Theft by Extortion, O.C.G.A. 16-8-16

A person commits the offense of theft by extortion when a person unlawfully obtains property of or from another person by threatening to

  • Inflict bodily injury on anyone or commit any other criminal offense;
  • Accuse anyone of a criminal offense;
  • Take or withhold action as a public official or cause an official to take or withhold action;
  • Disseminate any information tending to subject a person to hatred, contempt, or ridicule or to impair his credit or business repute;
  • Bring about or continue a strike, boycott, or other collective unofficial action if the property is not demanded or received for the benefit of the group in whose interest the actor purports to act; or
  • Testify or provide information or withhold testimony or information with respect to another’s legal claim or defense.

Theft Sentences and Penalties

Misdemeanor Theft by Taking is punishable by up to one year in jail.

Felony Theft by Taking valued between $1,500-$5,000 is punishable by one to five years in prison, theft valued at $5,001 to $25,000 is punishable by one to ten years in prison.

Other felony acts of theft and their punishments are as follows:

  • Theft by Taking, five to ten years in prison
  • Theft by Deception, up to one year in jail
  • Theft by Conversion, up to one year in jail
  • Theft of Services, up to one year in jail
  • Theft of Mislaid Property, one to twenty years in prison
  • Theft by Receiving, one to ten years in prison (up to 20 years for an auto)
  • Theft by Bringing, two to twenty years in prison
  • Theft of Trade Secrets, one to ten years in prison
  • Theft by Shoplifting, up to one year in jail (first offense, under $300)
  • Theft by Extortion, one to ten years in prison
  • Theft of a Firearm, one to ten years in prison

Felony Repeat Offenders

Another Georgia law that can come into play affects the sentencing of repeat felony offenders. Regarding habitual offenders, O.C.G.A. 17-10-7 (summarized), any person with prior felony convictions “shall be sentenced to undergo the longest period of time prescribed for the punishment of the subsequent offense of which he or she stands convicted, provided that, unless otherwise provided by law, the trial judge may, in his or her discretion, probate or suspend the maximum sentence prescribed for the offense.”.

In many cases, the accused may find themselves facing multiple charges and a complex potential of punishment. Available evidence and any comments you have made can make a conviction more likely to occur. If you have been arrested, consulting with a lawyer is your best way to know what you are facing.


If you have been charged with any type theft you need to hire a theft defense lawyer as soon as possible.

FOOTNOTES & CREDITS

  • 1 Legal Writers, “Georgia Theft Laws”, March 20, 2018, Available from Findlaw
  • 2 Staff Writer, “Theft and Robbery”, July 4, 2018, Available from Fearless.org
  • 3 Will Hanlon, “Types of Theft Crimes in Georgia”, March 15, 2022, Available from Bipper Media
  • Photo by Roberto Lee Cortes on Pixabay