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Theft and Shoplifting

How To Defend Shoplifting and Theft Under $5000 Charges

Shoplifting is both a common and minor criminal offense that is committed by Canadians of all ages and backgrounds. Unfortunately, being found guilty of a minor property related crime such as shoplifting can have a profound impact on a person’s future employment opportunities and travel plans.

If you have been charged with shoplifting in Toronto, hiring a criminal defence lawyer who deals with property crimes is the best way to ensure your criminal record and your reputation is protected.

In some cases, the shoplifting charge will be the result of an accident on your part. It is easy to understand how paying for an item can be overlooked in certain circumstances. If you have been charged as a result of forgetting to pay for an item in a store, you always have the option of pleading not guilty and attempting to convince the judge that your actions were unintentional. You may face an uphill battle however as many accused claim “accident” when accused of shoplifting whether it is truly an accident or not.

Daniel Brown is an experienced lawyer who can often convince the prosecutor to halt the prosecution for someone charged with a minor property related crime such as theft or possession of stolen property. The result in these cases is usually a withdrawal of the criminal charges without the need to go to the expense or embarrassment of a trial or face the risk of a possible criminal conviction.

Daniel Brown will also attend court for the person charged to limit his client's exposure to the criminal justice system. In most cases, Daniel's clients will thankfully never see the inside of a courtroom.

The following are answers to some frequently asked questions about theft and possession of stolen property. If you would like to discuss your case with Daniel Brown, he can at (416) 297-7200 to arrange an appointment.

Frequently asked questions about theft and shoplifting:

What is theft?

It is generally understand that theft is taking something that doesn't belong to you without the permission of the owner of the property. Shoplifting usually involves a theft from a retail store rather than a private citizen.

Is it theft if I steal from someone who doesn't legally own the property I took?

A theft can occur even when the property you took legally belonged to someone else. Any person having a property interest in an item taken can make a theft allegation.

What is shoplifting?

There are many different types of theft. The most common type is shoplifting, or theft from a retail store as opposed to theft from a private citizen. Shoplifting is a special kind of theft . It isoften impulsive, sometimes compulsive. You don’t need to be embarrassed. It happens to all kinds of people.

Prosecutors in Ontario generally treat this type of theft less seriously than other types of criminal charges. Generally a shoplifting allegation is considered to be on the lowest end of the criminal law spectrum, with murder at the opposite end of the spectrum. If you have been caught shoplifting, you may be able to avoid a criminal conviction without even going to trial if you are a first time offender. In many Ontario cities including Toronto, Brampton, Newmarket and Oshawa, people charged with theft for the first time may be eligible to have the charge diverted from the court system resulting in a withdrawal of their criminal charges.

How can I get my theft charge diverted?

Each courthouse in Ontario has a different diversion program and eligibility requirements differ from region to region.

Eligibility for the diversion program is always determined by the Crown Attorney's office. If they deem a theft offence to be of a minor nature (usually a small quantity of merchandise was taken and the property was recovered), the prosecutor may pre-approve eligibility into the diversion program. A person will not generally be eligible for diversion if they have had prior dealings with the police (even if it did not result in a criminal charge being laid).

Once in the diversion program, the eligible candidate may be asked to complete one of a number of different tasks. In some jurisdictions, a person charged with theft may be required to watch a video on shoplifting. In other jurisdictions they may be required to make a donation to charity or complete a minimum number of community service hours - or both.

Regardless of the requirements, the end result is usually the same. Once the diversion program has been completed to the satisfaction of the Crown Attorney, they will recommend to the court that the criminal charge of theft be withdrawn against the accused person. This will result in the accused person maintaining a clean record (assuming they didn't have a prior criminal record).

If a person is not pre-screened as eligible for the diversion program, a lawyer may be able to convince a Crown Attorney to reconsider their decision.

For general information on the criminal court process, including what happens to a person charged with theft or other criminal offence, read: Canadian Criminal Court Procedure.

What can happen if I am found guilty of theft?

Other types of theft, such as a theft from an employer are considered far more serious than shoplifting. The reason the courts and Crown's office treat these cases differently is due to the breach of trust that is committed by the employee. It is unlikely that a person charged with a breach of trust theft will be eligible for the diversion program. In fact, this type of an offence may even carry a jail sentence for a first time offender depending on the nature and severity of the allegation.

If you or someone you know is charged with theft, speak with a lawyer immediately to determine if you are eligible for the diversion program in order to protect your criminal record. Theft is considered a crime of dishonesty by employers and may act as a barrier to future employment in the business, education or health sectors, among others.

A theft conviction may also create difficulties for non-residents intending on becoming Canadian citizens.

Consulting a criminal lawyer will assist you with identifying potential defences to this type of allegation. Call Daniel Brown at (416) 297-7200 for a consultation about your case.