Theft is not necessarily a circumstance when a person takes an item by force. Other situations occur where a person legally acquires something from another individual but uses the property for unauthorized purposes.
Georgia law refers to this action as conversion by theft, and the act can bring stiff penalties.
What constitutes theft by conversion?
Theft by conversion involves obtaining the property or funds of another person through some legal agreement. The contract stipulates how the borrower, lessee or holder of the property may use it. If a person then uses the item or money in question for personal gain, a court may convict that individual for theft by conversion.
What are the consequences of theft by conversion?
Georgia classifies theft by conversion as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the value of the converted property. The court calculates this by determining the fair cash market value at any stage of the receipt and concealment of the converted property.
Taking anything less than $500 is usually a misdemeanor. Funds or property with a value over $500 open the possibility of felony charges.
Examples of conversion theft include not returning a rental property or vehicle at the end of a contract. Another example could be a financial investor using a client’s funds for a personal purchase instead of investing the money in designated accounts.
The penalties for this offense may involve returning the stolen items and reimbursing the owner for the loss of use or enjoyment of the property or funds. Prison sentences can last for years, and defendants may have to pay civil and criminal fines.