What is Theft?
The definition of theft in the Criminal Code of Canada is a lengthy one and full of legal jargon. Simply put, a theft occurs when a person intentionally takes or converts an item or piece of property belonging to someone else and thereby depriving that person the use and enjoyment of that item or piece of property. The person who takes the item or property has no legal interest in it and must do so with the intention of depriving the owner of that item or property.
How is Theft Different from Robbery?
It its simplest terms, a theft is the act of intentionally taking something that does not belong to you while depriving the person who owns that object the right to enjoyment of that particular object. A robbery involves the act of committing a theft but it also includes some form of violence or threat of violence against the victim.
Is there a Difference between Shoplifting and Theft?
No. Shoplifting is not a separate offence under the Criminal Code. Shoplifting is a form of theft that occurs at retail stores. If you are alleged to have shoplifted then you will be charged with theft.
Am I Eligible for Diversion?
The Crown Attorney determines whether you will be eligible for diversion. Often the Crown Attorney will recommend diversion if you have never been charged with a criminal offence and the theft is a minor one. Diversion in these circumstances usually involves making a donation to a recognized charity or completing some community service work. You should know that the Crown Attorney may not offer diversion in cases where the alleged theft occurred between an employee and his or her employer. This form of theft is viewed as a breach of trust and is often considered much more serious than other thefts such as shoplifting.
Why can’t I just give back what I Stole?
Our criminal justice system simply does not work that way. The fact that you may give back what you stole does not mean that you didn’t steal the item in the first place. If you give something back which you have stolen, you may be limiting the defences available to you. If you have been charged with theft you should not have any contact with the person or place where you are alleged to have stolen from.
What is the Penalty if I am Convicted of Theft?
The penalty for theft is divided into theft under $5,000 and theft over $5,000. Theft over $5,000 is an indictable offence with a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment. Theft under $5,000 is a hybrid offence which means the Crown Attorney can proceed by indictment or summarily. Where the Crown Attorney proceeds by indictment the maximum penalty is 2 years in jail, while the maximum penalty for a summary conviction is 6 months in jail. Relatively minor thefts are not likely to attract a jail sentence unless you have a bad criminal record.
What are the Defences to being charged with Theft?
What defences are available will depend upon the facts of your case. In some circumstances the Crown Attorney may not be able to prove that you intended to steal a particular item. For example, you may have put something at the bottom of your shopping cart and forgot you put it there when you paid for your groceries. In other circumstances you may have taken an item believing that it belonged to you.
Similar to robbery charges, identification may be an issue if the only evidence of a theft is a witness statement or video surveillance.
I am charged with Theft, What do I do?
The first thing you should do is contact a criminal defence lawyer. There may be more than one defence available to you or a lawyer may be able to resolve your case so you do not receive a criminal record. Even if your charge is a very minor one, you should consult with a lawyer so that you know what your legal options are.
If you have a question about theft or you have been charged with theft, call me or send me an email.