There are many different types of theft and fraud charges in Georgia. A person commits a theft offense when they take or keep property that does not belong to them. Whether a theft crime is considered a misdemeanor or felony depends on the value of the property stolen.
On the other hand, fraud crimes generally involve the use of some fake or altered paperwork or identifying information used or intended to be used to gain something of value. Some of the most common theft and fraud crimes are discussed below.
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In a broad sense, theft charges in Georgia involve taking or having possession of someone else’s personal property without their permission. There are over a dozen different types of theft crimes in Georgia. A few of the most common are below.
However, if the false impression or information have no financial impact or significance or the exaggerated statements are unlikely to deceive ordinary people, such statements will not be considered “deceitful means” or “artful practice” for purposes of proving theft by deception.
Punishment for any of the above crimes depends on the dollar value of the thing stolen. If the property was worth $25,000.00 or more, the accused will be punished for a felony by imprisonment for 2 to 20 years. If the property was worth at least $5,000.00 but less than $25,000.00, the accused will be punished by imprisonment for 1 to 10 years and, in the discretion of the judge, for a misdemeanor or felony. If the property was worth at least $1,500.01 but less than $5,000.00, the accused will be by imprisonment for 1 to 5 years and, in the discretion of the judge, for a misdemeanor or felony.
Fraud charges in Georgia generally involve using dishonesty, a lie, or deception to gain some type of benefit such as money, property, or something else of value. Like theft crimes, there are many different types of fraud-related crimes in Georgia. A few of the most common are forgery, identity fraud, and aggravated identity fraud.
There are several different degrees of forgery under Georgia law (O.C.G.A. § 16-9-1), and each require separate elements of proof. First, second, and third degree forgery are all felony offenses.
A person may be charged with forgery in the first degree when he or she knowingly makes, alters, or possesses a piece of writing in a fictitious name, a writing that has been altered, or one that was allegedly made by another person at a different time with different provisions and delivers that writing to another person with intent to defraud. The writing at issue can be anything except for a check. If convicted, a person may be sentenced to imprisonment for 1 to 15 years.
A person may be charged with forgery in the second degree when he or she knowingly makes, alters, or possesses a piece of writing in a fictitious name, a writing that has been altered, or one that allegedly was made by another person at a different time with different provisions with intent to defraud. The writing at issue can be anything except for a check. The different between first and second degree forgery is whether the writing was relayed or delivered to another person. Second degree forgery does not require that the altered writing be given to another. If convicted, a person may be sentenced to imprisonment for 1 to 5 years.
A person commits the offense of forgery in the third degree when, with the intent to defraud, he or she knowingly makes, alters, possesses, or delivers any check for $1,500.00 or more or 10 or more checks written without a specified amount in a fake name or in a way that the check(s) indicates it was made by another person, at another time, with different provisions, or by authority of someone who did not actually give permission. If convicted, a person may be sentenced to imprisonment for 1 to 5 years.
A person may be charged with identity fraud (O.C.G.A. § 16-9-121) if he or she does any of the following willfully and fraudulently:
It is also a crime for a person to accept fraudulent identifying information that he or she knows is fraudulent, stolen, counterfeit, or fictitious. If convicted of identity fraud, a person faces 1 to 10 years imprisonment, up to a $100,000.00 fine, or both. If it is the person’s second or consecutive conviction for identity fraud, the penalty is increased to 3 to 15 years imprisonment, up to a $250,000.00 fine, or both.
O.C.G.A. § 16-9-121 does not apply to a person under the age of 21 who uses a fraudulent, counterfeit, or other false ID card to get into a business (such as a bar) or to purchase items (such as alcohol) they are not of legal age to purchase or enter.
A person may be charged with aggravated identity fraud (O.C.G.A. § 16-9-121.1) if he or she willfully and fraudulently uses any counterfeit or fictitious identifying information belonging to a real, fictitious, or deceased person with intent to use that information for the purpose of obtaining employment. If convicted of aggravated identity theft, a person may be sentenced to 1 to 15 years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000.00, or both. Also, the sentence will run consecutively to any other sentence the convicted has received. This means that the sentence for aggravated identity theft will be “stacked” on top of any other sentence imposed for a different charge. It will not run concurrently or at the same time as the other charge, which is more common in most cases. For example, you are convicted of one count of theft by receiving and sentenced to 2 years in prison. You are also convicted of one count of aggravated identity theft and sentenced to 1 year in prison. The 1 year for aggravated identity theft will run consecutively to the 2 years for theft by receiving for a total of 3 years to serve.
There are several defenses for those charged with theft crimes. Some common defenses include:
A couple of defenses to forgery and identity fraud charges include:
The information provided above is a very general summary of Georgia law on theft and fraud charges at the time this text was prepared. Because this analysis is subject to change depending upon recent cases and legal developments, you should not rely on this summary as legal advice. As with any important legal question, you should always consult a Georgia criminal defense lawyer licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. Our lawyers are licensed to practice in all state and federal courts in Georgia.
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