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Theft and shoplifting

Region: Ontario Answer # 1814

Shoplifting is theft, and it means to steal something from a store. Theft is a criminal offence under the Canadian Criminal Code. If you have been charged with a criminal offence, it is important to hire an experienced criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible.

What is considered theft?

To be found guilty of theft or shoplifting, the Crown prosecutor must prove that you intended to steal the item. For example, if you are charged with shoplifting a book, the Crown prosecutor must prove that you intended to leave without paying for the book. If you honestly forgot to pay for the book, or if you honestly forgot you were carrying the book, and the judge believes you, you cannot be found guilty of the offence.

Powers of store security and police to hold you

If a store employee has a good reason to believe that you are shoplifting, the store security can hold you in their custody. They cannot hold you for a long period, and they must call the police right away. Although you do not have to answer any questions asked by store security or the police, you should avoid becoming hostile and you should identify yourself.

Trial procedures and penalties for theft

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.

Generally, however, the penalty for first-time offenders is a small fine and probation, or an absolute or conditional discharge. In some areas, the Crown can offer you the alternative of doing community service work and will withdraw the charge if it is a very minor one.

If the Crown prosecutor chooses to treat the offence as a serious indictable offence, your sentence could be much more severe. Theft over $5,000 is a serious indictable offence, and carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

Visit Canada’s Department of Justice for more information about criminal law and the justice system in Canada, or, view the Criminal Code to see information regarding specific criminal offences.

Get Help

If you have a criminal record and want to erase it, call toll-free 1-888-808-3628 or learn more at Pardon Partners. It’s easier than you think.

If you have been charged with a fraud or any criminal offence, it is important to hire an experienced Criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible. Contact our preferred criminal defence expert, Calvin Barry Criminal Lawyers for a free consultation at 416-938-5858 .


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