According to § O.C.G.A. 16-8-3, theft by deception occurs when a person obtains property by any deceitful means or artful practice with the intention of depriving the owner of the property. However, deceitful means does not include statements of exaggeration that are unlikely to deceive the rightful owner or false statements as to matters that have little to no financial significance.
Some examples of theft by deception include, but are not limited to:
- Billing someone for a job that an accused did not complete;
- Making false statements to persuade the rightful owner to let the accused take their property;
- Selling property when the accused knew that there was a lien/ some other loan attached to it.
Value of Property
In determining whether the theft by deception charge will be characterized as a misdemeanor or a felony depends on the value of the property stolen. In Georgia, goods or property valued at less than $500 are generally charged as misdemeanors. Alternatively, if the property or goods in question are valued at a price greater than $500, the prosecution may file felony charges against the accused.
An experienced criminal defense attorney can assert affirmative defenses to either request a reduction in the penalties of a theft by deception conviction or receive a dismissal of all charges. Thus, it is vitally important to hire a seasoned criminal defense attorney to defend you against such allegations.
Some affirmative defenses to theft by deception include, but are not limited to:
- Actual innocence;
- Lack of intent;
- Future payment: In Elliott v. State, 149 Ga. App. 579 (1979), the court found that the accused could not be convicted for theft by deception when he arranged to pay for the goods in question by making a promise to the rightful owner of future payment. The court found that there was no theft by deception, because there was no false representation made, the accused made a good faith promise of future payment;
- Charges should be reduced, because the property value was less than the prosecution alleged;
- Continuous criminal act: if the prosecution alleges that multiple items were stolen; an experienced criminal defense attorney could instead argue that the string of thefts constituted only one continuous crime. This would reduce the number of counts of theft that the State of Georgia has brought forward against the accused, and likely, will reduce the sentencing of such a charge.
At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our lawyers are trained to know all affirmative defenses for the offense of theft by deception, as well as all possible options for an accused dealing with such a serious offense. We are experienced and skilled at defending such allegations and we work tirelessly to advocate for our clients and their constitutional rights. Therefore, if you or a loved one has been arrested for theft by deception, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.