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Sticking your own UPC labels is a theft crime

On Behalf of | Nov 28, 2023 | Criminal Defense, Theft

As consumers, it’s easy to take the convenience of barcodes for granted. They allow for faster checkout since instead of manually keying in each item’s price and code, a cashier can scan the barcode label to generate the information. It also ensures that each item’s price is accurate on checkout.

One of the most popular types of barcode used is the Universal Product Code (UPC). It’s a standardized item number that allows producers and merchants to easily track the distribution and sales of items throughout the world. It’s thanks to the global standardization of UPC that businesses can quickly identify and keep updated with their stocks, while consumers benefit from faster checkouts.

Some devious shoppers might think they can try to print or produce their own UPC labels for items with very low prices, and then affix them onto expensive merchandise to trick the cashiers. This isn’t just very illegal, but it’s also a heinous theft crime in Georgia.

UPC misuse is illegal

Per Georgia law, a person who makes, alters, counterfeits or reproduces a UPC label with the intent to cheat a retailer of more than $500 in value commits a felony offense. A conviction for this offense is punishable by up to three years of imprisonment and $100,000 in fines.

However, if the offender managed to cheat three separate retailers using the same UPC label scheme within seven days, and each instance of theft exceeds $500 in value, the maximum sentence on conviction is enhanced to not more than 10 years of prison.

Possessing multiple labels or a printing device leads to greater penalties

The law also states that a person who possesses 15 or more fraudulent UPC labels or a device that can manufacture more fake UPC labels commits a criminal offense. This possession offense is a felony punishable by up to ten years of prison.

Customers might take them for granted, but it’s a bad idea to reproduce and misuse UPC labels to purchase items on the cheap. If you face charges, consider speaking with a legal professional. UPC label misuse is a felony offense that leads to years of prison time, so you’ll need guidance and information to prepare a strong defense case.