Shoplifting & Theft Under $5000 Defence Lawyers in Ottawa
If you are charged with shoplifting or theft under 5000 dollars in Ottawa, you could be facing a criminal conviction with serious long-term implications.
People forget to pay for items; misunderstandings happen; people make mistakes; others are desperate, misguided or make a poor choice in the heat of the moment; and sometimes, security guards are mistaken.
It’s extremely harsh to have to live with a lifelong criminal record if you make one mistake. That’s why you should never simply plead guilty and accept the immediate and long-term penalties of a shoplifting charge.
At Friedman Mansour LLP, we can provide the representation you need to defend the charges and escape the most serious consequences.
What is shoplifting?
Shoplifting is the term used for the criminal act of taking something from a store without paying for it.
Shoplifting charges can be laid against you even if you never intended to leave the store without paying for items. Concealing items in your pockets, for instance, may be enough for the police to be called.
Why is the 5000-dollar number important?
In Canadian law, the crime of theft is sub-divided into several categories. The most important distinction is in the value of the property taken.
For theft crimes under the value of $5,000, there is one set of guidelines for prosecuting and sentencing. For theft over the value of $5,000, another set of guidelines exists, including harsher penalties.
What is the legal definition of shoplifting in Ontario?
If you are caught allegedly taking something from a store without paying for it, you won’t be charged with “shoplifting” per se.
You may be charged with theft under $5,000, assuming you have not taken goods from the store worth more than this value.
The vast majority of shoplifting offenses are “theft under 5000” offenses.
Section 322 of the Criminal Code states:
“Every one commits theft who fraudulently and without colour of right takes, or fraudulently and without colour of right converts to his use or to the use of another person, anything, whether animate or inanimate, with intent.”
The term “without colour of right” means without the legal authority to take the property.
Importantly, according to the law, there must be intent to be classified as theft. So, if you are accused of shoplifting but you were distracted by something and inadvertently placed items in your bag and walked out without paying, this could be a reasonable defence against a criminal charge.
Intent must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt for a conviction to be successful.
Penalties for shoplifting & theft under 5000
The penalties for shoplifting or theft under 5000 vary greatly depending on your criminal record. However, it is always a serious charge and should never be downplayed.
In terms of the immediate penalties for a guilty verdict for shoplifting or theft under 5000, you may face a summary conviction and possible imprisonment for up to two years.
Penalties for first-time offenders in Ottawa
Even first-time offenders risk the possibility of never again being able to say that they have never been arrested and don’t have a criminal record on job applications.
This is a serious possible consequence of a shoplifting charge. Simply being fingerprinted can have negative consequences when it comes to your future (see next section).
The more immediate consequences include:
- Possible jail time
- Probation orders
For first-time offenders in Ottawa, there is a good chance you will avoid jail time with the help of an experienced lawyer – but if you cannot avoid a criminal charge, there will be other long-term consequences.
Long-term consequences of a criminal record
Remember, the long-term impact of a criminal charge often far outweighs the impact of the short-term penalties. If you are saddled with a lifelong criminal record, it can affect many aspects of your life, including:
- Your employment opportunities (certain professions will be off-limits)
- Housing (your criminal record will be viewable to landlords)
- Travel (customs/border issues)
- Immigration status (work permits/permanent residency/citizenship issues)
Once you are arrested and fingerprinted, your information will be sent to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) regardless of whether you are convicted. This information is then made available to:
- All police agencies
- Security services
- Border agencies
These negative consequences are in addition to the reputational damage that can result from any criminal charge.
What is the “Shop Theft” program in Ontario?
You may have heard about the “Shop Theft” program.
This was a pilot program launched by the Toronto Police Service in 2018 and expanded in 2019. It aimed to address the growing problem of shoplifting in the city and the over-stretched police resources there.
Under this program, rather than waiting for hours for the police to show up to a low-priority call, offenders can be released once relevant details are taken by the store owner/security.
An investigation is still launched (over the phone) but first-time offenders aged 18 or older can avoid a charge and prosecution, providing no violence was involved in the crime and the total value of goods stolen was under $1,000.
Upon release, the suspect is given a notice of apprehension, which states why they were detained and indicates that a criminal summons may be obtained at a later date by the police.
Accused of shoplifting in Ottawa?
The first step in building your defence to shoplifting or theft under $5000 is a free case evaluation with Friedman Mansour LLP.
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