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Atlanta Criminal Defense Lawyers > Blog > Theft > What Is “Theft By Conversion” in Georgia?

What Is “Theft By Conversion” in Georgia?


Theft broadly describes a number of criminal offenses where someone unlawfully takes the property of another. One of the more complex types of theft charges in Georgia is theft by conversion. This refers to a situation where a person initially obtains property lawfully–i.e., with the owner’s consent–but then “converts” that property to their own use in violation of their agreement with the owner.

Here is a simple hypothetical example of theft by conversion: You rent a piece of equipment from a store. You refuse to return that equipment when the rental period ends and simply keep it for yourself. That is theft by conversion.

Georgia Court of Appeals Partially Reverses Verdict Against Man Charged with Stealing from Biscuit Business

In the real world, theft by conversion can be tricky for prosecutors to prove. The law is not meant to criminalize a breach of a contract or a private debt. Rather, the state must prove–beyond a reasonable doubt–that the defendant formed the criminal intent to convert the owner’s property.

A recent decision from the Georgia Court of Appeals, Combs v. State, illustrates how the law can blur the lines between a business dispute and a crime. In this case, a married couple hired the defendant to run their small business baking and selling homemade biscuits to local gas stations and convenience stores. There was never any formal contract or partnership agreement between the parties.

The couple left the defendant to run the business without any day-to-day involvement. But after the couple started receiving complaints about customers not receiving orders, the husband learned that there was only $10 left in the business checking account. He then determined there were several “inappropriate withdrawals or debits” made to the account.

This eventually led to a police investigation. Prosecutors charged the defendant with three counts of theft by conversion. The jury convicted the defendant on two of those counts. The Court of Appeals, however, reversed one of those convictions while allowing the other one to stand.

The upheld conviction involved the alleged conversion of $2,100. The husband testified that he gave the defendant $2,100 to purchase a new biscuit oven. The defendant neither purchased the oven nor returned the money. That was sufficient evidence, the Court of Appeals said, for the jury to conclude the defendant committed theft by conversion.

The reversed conviction related to less-specific allegations that the defendant failed to account for nearly $7,800 in money that had been in the business checking account. With respect to this charge, the appellate court said, the husband “had no personal knowledge” of how the defendant spent this money. The defendant claimed he spent it on matters related to the business, and there was insufficient to prove otherwise.

Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers Today

Theft charges can carry significant jail time in Georgia depending on the value of the property involved. So if you are facing such allegations it is in your best interest to engage a qualified Atlanta theft lawyer today. Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers today to schedule a free consultation. We serve clients throughout Georgia including Atlanta, Dunwoody, Alpharetta, Cobb County, Fulton County, Gwinnett County, Johns Creek and Sandy Springs.



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