Theft – Shoplifting – Criminal Defence Lawyer Toronto
I’ve been charged with theft under $5000. Am I going to jail?
Oftentimes, people charged with Theft Under are being accused of trying to steal a relatively small item worth under $100 (for example, a shirt from Winners or a bottle of alcohol from the LCBO). While it may seem relatively minor, it could result in a criminal record if you are found guilty.
The facts and circumstances are often looked at by the Crown, and if it goes to trial, by the court. Depending on the circumstances around the theft, you may be viewed with a sympathetic mind. Why an item was stolen and what item was stolen has great bearing on how a person will be looked at by the court system.
i) If the Crown proceeds by way of Indictment, the maximum jail sentence allowed is 2 years if the value is under $5000.
ii) If the Crown proceeds by way of a summary conviction, the maximum jail sentence is 6 months if the value is under $5000.
Can I avoid a trial?
Depending on your personal circumstances, your criminal record, whether you were working at the store that you are alleged to have stolen from, and the value of what was stolen, people charged with theft under may be eligible to have the charge diverted.
Generally, to have a charge diverted, the person charged will have to perform a specific amount of community service hours, make a charitable donation, or attend a lecture on shoplifting. While you do not have to formally admit your guilt, occasionally you may have to acknowledge responsibility for the actions that led to you being charged. This is why it is important to speak to a lawyer before your first court appearance (click HERE to speak with a lawyer about your charge).
If you worked for the company you are accused of stealing from, the chances of being offered diversion are slim. This is because you are being accused of breaching the trust of the company that employed you by stealing from them. A lawyer can discuss this with you and can help you determine whether diversion is at all possible.
The Crown already said I was not eligible for diversion. What now?
Diversion may still be possible. This is why it is important for you to have legal representation. Through mandatory Crown pre-trials, a lawyer may be able to persuade the Crown to change its mind and offer you diversion.
If diversion is still not possible, a trial may be in your best interests. While you may think there is no way that you can be found not guilty, there may be legal arguments to be made that will result in a not guilty verdict. A trial is especially important if any type of sentence could hurt your career aspirations.
I didn’t take the item out of the store. How can I be charged with theft?
The Crown must establish that when the item was taken by you, it was done with the intention to deprive the owner of it (either temporarily or permanently) and that it was done deliberately when you had no legal right to take it for yourself. A theft may be defended by raising a reasonable doubt on the basis of a mistake being made (either by the store in believing you were stealing the item, or by you forgetting to pay for the item for a specific reason).
My charge was diverted. My fingerprints were taken by the police. Can I get these back?
6 months after a charge is stayed or withdrawn, a request can be made to the police force to destroy your fingerprints. This process can also be done through your lawyer. Upon request, the police force will let you know whether they will consent to destroying your fingerprints. If they do not, there are other legal means you can take to have your fingerprints destroyed.
I’ve been charged with Theft Over $5000. Is diversion possible?
You are not likely to be offered diversion. Occasionally, your lawyer can make an arrangement with the Crown that if the item is returned, or the monetary value of the item stolen is re-paid, diversion might be possible. On occasion, people who allege that something was stolen will inflate the value for insurance purposes (or for many other reasons). You should consult a lawyer to determine what your best course of action is.
i) The Crown can only proceed by way of Indictment and the maximum jail sentence allowed is 10 years if the value is Over $5000.