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Atlanta Criminal Defense Lawyers > Blog > General > What Not to Do When Accused of Shoplifting in Georgia

What Not to Do When Accused of Shoplifting in Georgia


Theft by shoplifting is a misdemeanor in Georgia when the property taken is worth $500 or less. Above that amount, shoplifting is automatically bumped up to a felony, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison. And even the misdemeanor offense may carry some amount of jail time. So if you are suspected of shoplifting, you need to take the matter seriously.

Making Threats, Fleeing the Scene Can Lead to Additional Charges

The first thing to keep in mind if a store employee accuses you of shoplifting is to remain calm and not do anything rash that could end up landing you in even more trouble with the law. Here are a couple of recent examples of individuals who did not heed this advice:

  • A woman in Floyd County, Georgia, allegedly tried to leave a T.J. Maxx store with about $100 worth of merchandise without paying. When a store employee stopped the woman, she allegedly threatened to kill the employee. Prosecutors subsequently charged the woman with making terrorist threats in addition to shoplifting.
  • Cobb County police are, as of January 10, 2024, still searching for a man who allegedly tried to steal hundreds of dollars in merchandise from the Cumberland Mall in Atlanta. When mall security tried to stop the man, he fled the store, leaving behind not just the merchandise but also a small child. The still-unidentified man faces criminal charges of felony shoplifting, battery, and child cruelty.

So what should you do if a store employee or security guard detains you on suspicion of shoplifting? Obviously, trying to flee or threatening the employee is not the right response. Here is what you should do instead:

  • Do not try to “fix” the problem by offering to pay for the merchandise. Even in a case where you accidentally took something–say you simply forgot to pay for the item–just making that offer can be construed as an admission of guilt. You can try to return the merchandise to the shelf. But keep in mind, you can still be charged with shoplifting even if you never leave the store with the merchandise.
  • You do not have to identify yourself to store employees even when detained on suspicion of shoplifting. A store or mall security guard does have the legal authority of a police officer. If they ask you for your name, you can–and should–politely decline to answer any questions until the actual police arrive.
  • Never make any statements to the store employees. As the T.J. Maxx story above demonstrates, if you get angry and start making threats, you can be charged with a crime even if you never stole anything and you never actually intended to hurt anyone.

Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers Today

Perhaps the most important thing to remember if you are arrested for shoplifting or any other theft crime is to contact a qualified Cobb County criminal defense attorney as soon as possible who can advise you of your rights and represent you in court. 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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