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Car Break-ins on the Rise in Atlanta: How are Offenders Punished?

Atlanta has seen a 22% increase in thefts from autos and car break-ins so far this year. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Atlanta Police Department is investigating about 200 cases of larceny from vehicles each week.

From January 1 to February 15, 2020, Atlanta police investigated over 1,400 cases of theft from vehicles. By contrast, there were about 1,150 thefts from autos during the same period in 2019. 

During a single night in January, nearly 80 car break-ins were reported at a luxury apartment complex in Southeast Atlanta. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, police were asking residents to help identify the suspects who broke into multiple vehicles. Police released surveillance footage of three suspects. One of the victims told police that $5,000 in cash was stolen from his car during the incident.

In Georgia, a person is committing larceny by taking anything of value from another person with the intent to permanently deprive the owner. Larceny is also known as “theft by taking” and applies to cases in which offenders break into a car to steal items from inside it or any of the vehicle’s parts.

Penalties for Car Break-ins (Theft by Taking) in Georgia

Under Georgia’s criminal law, theft by taking is charged as either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the value of the stolen property and other circumstances. Breaking into a car is always a felony in Georgia, regardless of the amount taken or damage done. In Georgia, the crime of entering an auto carries a potential sentence of up to five years in prison.

When larceny involved someone else’s personal property valued at $500 or less, the offender would face misdemeanor charges punishable by a maximum of $1,000 and no more than 12 months in jail.

If the offender’s punishment includes a jail sentence of six months or less, the judge has the discretion to allow the offender to serve a sentence through weekend confinement or during non-working hours.

Theft that involved personal property valued at $500 or more is typically punished as a felony. However, the judge has the discretion to determine whether theft involving property worth over $500 should be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. In Georgia, felony charges may result in imprisonment for at least a year, but not more than 10 years.

Note: Theft of an automobile or a part of a motor vehicle valued at over $1,000 is an aggravating circumstance punished as a felony in Georgia.

Other Consequences of Theft by Taking in Georgia

In addition to fines and imprisonment, committing a theft crime is also associated with other consequences in Georgia. The person the offender stole from could bring a lawsuit to recover monetary damages, including:

  • The costs of bringing a civil action against the defendant;
  • Compensatory damage, including the value of the stolen personal property;
  • Losses incurred as a result of the theft; and
  • Liquidated exemplary damages amounting to $150 or twice the value of the loss (when the claim is no more than $5,000).

Contact our Atlanta theft crimes attorneys at Ghanayem & Rayasam, LLC, to conduct an investigation of your arrest and prepare a thorough and strong legal defense against your charge. Call (404) 561-0202 for a case evaluation.