Governor Nathan Deal signed into law HB 1176 (The Act) on May 2, 2012.  This bill enacts numerous needed reforms to Georgia’s Criminal Laws.  The bill was drafted upon the recommendations of the Criminal Justice Reform Council, which performed a detailed analysis of the Georgia’s sentencing and corrections data and provided a report detailing its recommendations. 

The Act instituted several changes to the sentencing for several categories of offenses.  These changes will be implemented over the next three years.  Changes to Georgia’s theft statutes are included in the first phase of the reforms and will be effective July 1, 2012.  The changes to the theft statute are outlined below: 

Under the current theft law, conviction for the theft of property that is valued at less than $500 is punished as a misdemeanor.  If the property the subject of the theft is greater than $500, the punishment was a felony and ranged from imprisonment of at least 1 year and not more than 10 years.  The current law will apply to crimes committed prior to July 1, 2012. 

For thefts committed after July 1, 2012, the following punishment ranges will apply. 

  • If the property the subject of the theft is valued at less than $1,500.00, the crime is punished as a misdemeanor. 
  • If the property the subject of the theft is valued at $1,500.01 but less than $5,000.00, the crime is punished as a felony and imprisonment of at least 1 year but not more than 5 years.  The judge has the discretion to punish the crime as a misdemeanor. 
  • If the property the subject of the theft is valued at $5,000.00 but less than $25,000.00, the crime is punished as a felony and imprisonment of at least 1 year but not more than 10 years.  The judge has the discretion to punish the crime as a misdemeanor. 
  • If the property the subject of the theft is valued at $25,000.00 or more, the crime is punished as a felony and imprisonment of at least 2 years but not more than 20 years.  The judge does not have the discretion to punish the crime as a misdemeanor.  

These changes are a welcome change to Georgia’s theft statutes and puts the punishment ranges more in line with the trends of other states across the Nation.  Georgia’s reforms passed this year are a step in the right direction if we are to reduce the numbers of non-violent offenders being housed in Georgia’s correction facilities.  I will continue to update this blog on the other aspects of changes in the law in the days to come.