Under O.C.G.A. § 16-8-2, a person commits a theft by taking when he or she “unlawfully takes, or being in unlawful possession therefor, unlawfully appropriates the property of another with the intention of depriving him of the property, regardless of the manner in which the property is taken or appropriated.”
Thus, the State has to prove that you:
- Unlawfully took another person’s property, and that you
- Did not intend to return the property.
Theft by taking may be established by circumstantial evidence. Duke v. State, 153 Ga.App. 204 (1980). For example, the Georgia Court of Appeals has held that “recent, unexplained possession” is sufficient to support a Theft by Taking charge. Brown v. State, 236 Ga.App. 478 (1999).
Theft by taking carries a wide variety of possible punishments, depending on whether it is charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. With a few exceptions, whether the theft is classified as a felony or a misdemeanor is typically dependent upon the value of the stolen object.
Theft by Taking Penalties
|Offense||Classification||Penalty for Conviction|
|Theft by Taking where subject of the theft is $1,500 or under in value.||Misdemeanor||Up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of $1,000.|
|Theft by Taking where subject of the theft at least $1,500.01 in value but less than $5,000.||Felony||Generally, at least 1 year but not more than 5 years imprisonment. However, may be sentenced as a misdemeanor in the judge’s discretion.|
|Theft by Taking where subject of the theft at least $5,000 in value but less than $25,000.||Felony||Generally, at least 1 year but not more than 10 years imprisonment. However, may be sentenced as a misdemeanor in the judge’s discretion.|
|Theft by Taking where the defendant has at least two prior theft convictions||Felony||Generally, at least 1 year but not more than 5 years imprisonment. However, may be sentenced as a misdemeanor in the judge’s discretion.|
|Theft by Taking where the stolen object was a memorial to the dead or any “ornamentation, flower, tree, or shrub placed near a memorial to the dead.”||Felony||At least 1 year but not more than 3 years imprisonment.|
|Theft by Taking where the stolen object was a “destructive device, explosive, or firearm.”||Felony||At least 1 year but not more than 10 years imprisonment|
In order to secure a Theft by Taking conviction, the State must prove that a defendant took property with the intent of depriving the owner of the property. In many cases, this is not straightforward. While intent can be inferred from surrounding circumstances, it is always difficult to get in a person’s head and determine what he or she was thinking at a particular time. It always requires a degree of guesswork and assumption, which can be rebutted with evidence presented competently by your Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney. For example, imagine if you gave your neighbor a ride to work, and he left his wallet in your vehicle, unbeknownst to you. Although you technically had possession of your neighbor’s wallet, it could not be said that you intended to deprive your neighbor of his property. A skilled attorney knows the best way to present evidence of intent (or lack thereof) to the jury and successfully win your Theft by Taking case.
Because the value of the property is essential in determining the classification of the charge, the State’s failure to accurately determine the value of the stolen property is a critical flaw in the State’s case. If your Criminal Defense Attorney can prove that the value of the property was far less than the State alleged, that can make the difference between a Felony Theft by Taking charge and a misdemeanor charge.
In addition to the serious criminal penalties of a Theft by Taking charge, a conviction on such a charge can result in life-changing collateral consequences, specifically in the realm of employment. Many employers will refuse to hire individuals with convictions for theft-related charges. In order to give yourself the best chance of successfully keeping a Theft by Taking conviction off your record, call me today.