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Theft under 5000 (also known as 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 theft or shoplifting charge can have a profound impact on a person’s criminal record which can affect their future employment opportunities and travel plans.
One of the most common offences that come before the court and police is shoplifting and other forms of theft. Much to the surprise of many, most people who are charged with theft have no prior involvement in the law and are often otherwise people of good character.
All too often people act out of impulse, poor judgment, or as a result of mental health. If you are one of the many people in Oakville charged with shoplifting or theft, you do not need to feel alone or embarrassed.
If you have been charged with theft or shoplifting in Oakville hiring a criminal defence lawyer who deals with theft charges is the best way to ensure your criminal record and your reputation is protected.
Shoplifting is typically defined as the unauthorized removal of merchandise from a store without paying for it. However, successfully leaving the store with unpaid merchandise is not the only way to commit a shoplifting crime. In certain cases, the intent to steal, along with an act in furtherance of that intent, can also result in criminal charges for shoplifting (or retail fraud).
Although the crime of shoplifting may be prosecuted under general Larceny statutes, most jurisdictions have established a specific category for shoplifting. Statutes vary widely, but generally the elements of shoplifting are:
(1) Willfully taking possession of or concealing unpurchased goods that are offered for sale.
(2) With the intention of converting the merchandise to the taker’s personal use without paying the purchase price. Possession or concealment of goods typically encompasses actions both on and outside the premises.
Shoplifting is charged when a person takes merchandise, and conceals the merchandise from view. This could be done by hiding the item under clothes or being placed inside a bag. The important thing to remember is that this offense occurs as soon as the item is concealed. The person charged with shoplifting does not have to leave the store or go past the line of cash registers.
Once the person leaves the store, the charge changes from Shoplifting to Larceny. Larceny can be charged, without the person leaving the store as well.
Larceny is typically defined as an unlawful taking of another individual’s property with the intention to deprive the other person of the property on a permanent basis. Moreover, the owner of the property cannot have agreed to the taking. Thus, if one steals someone else’s property and intends to keep it, this is larceny.Larceny is normally a Class 1 misdemeanor. It requires proof that a defendant has (1) Taken (2) personal property that is (3) In the possession of another, and (4) has carried it away (5) without consent and (6) with the intent to deprive the possessor of it permanently, while (7) knowing that he or she was not entitled to it.
Did you know that typically over 50,000 people are charged with Shoplifting and Theft Under $5,000 throughout Canada, each year. This criminal offence is defined in the Criminal Code of Canada in Section 334(b) and includes shoplifting, since most shoplifters rarely attempt to steal property valued at more than $5,000. If you are convicted of theft under $5,000, the maximum penalties you would receive is a summary offence of a fine of up to $2,000 and/or imprisoned for up to six months. However, if you are a first offender your charges are likely to be much less severe.
You either can be charged with theft over $5,000 or theft under $5,000, depending on the value of the item allegedly stolen. Theft under $5,000 is a hybrid offence, which means that the Crown prosecutor can choose to treat the offence as a less serious summary conviction offence, or a more serious indictable offence. If it is your first offence, the Crown prosecutor will probably choose the less serious summary conviction procedure, which carries a maximum penalty of a $5,000 fine or two years less a day in prison, or both.
Theft over $5,000 is an indictable offence under section 334 of the Criminal Code. The punishment upon conviction is a maximum 10 years imprisonment.
Theft under $5,00 can be prosecuted by indictment or summary conviction. If the Crown elects to proceeds by way of indictment, the maximum punishment is 2 years imprisonment. If the Crown proceeds by summary conviction, the maximum penalty is 6 months imprisonment.
If you face shoplifting criminal charges, speak with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The defense attorney can protect your rights, help you navigate the criminal justice system, and advise you on the consequences of a conviction. You should speak with a civil law attorney if you received a demand letter or summons for a lawsuit from the store owner.
Don’t make a mistake of representing yourself in a court of law. Although the shoplifting laws were changed last year reducing the penalties, the gravity of the charge will depend on the circumstances around the case and how the prosecutor can prove your intent to steal. You never know, you might be expecting an “infraction” charge only for a prosecutor to surprise you with a burglary charge and go ahead to prove it. But, engaging an experienced criminal defense attorney can be the difference between serving a 6 months sentence in county jail. A good attorney can also have your charges expunged, or penalties reduced.
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