Shoplifting offenses are fairly common, but that doesn’t mean shoplifting crimes aren’t taken seriously. Every province’s penal (criminal) code includes provisions that apply to shoplifting (usually under the umbrella of theft or larceny statutes), and the penalties can be harsh especially when the dollar value of the merchandise is high or the offender has a criminal record. The terms “shoplifting” and “shoplifter” are not usually defined in law. The crime of shoplifting generally falls under the legal classification of larceny. A skilled criminal defense attorney can examine the facts and evidence in your case and build a defense to protect your freedom.
Each province’s laws vary, but generally shoplifting offenses include two basic elements:
In order to defend against shoplifting, you will generally have to establish one or more of the following you did not take the items in question, you had a valid claim to the items you took, or you took the items without the requisite intent.
Additionally, in many provinces, shoplifting laws prohibit the intentional altering of an item in order to avoid paying the full price of the item. This can include switching tags on items, manipulating the price written on a good, or changing the packaging of merchandise in order to get a lower price.
In many provinces, shoplifting is charged and punished as a theft or larceny offense usually as petty or misdemeanor theft, if the value of the merchandise stolen falls below a certain threshold (say $200, for example). Other provinces differentiate between the crimes of shoplifting and general theft for purposes of charging and sentencing, and some treat shoplifting less severely than other theft offenses (such as an infraction rather than a misdemeanor).
Where the value of the property stolen was worth more than $400 the person will be charged with grand theft, which can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. The decision will be ultimately left up to the prosecution as how to charge you. This is normally dependent upon any past convictions on your criminal record. The penalty for grand theft can be up to one full year in jail or province prison a large price to pay, especially if you had a momentary lapse in judgment.
Shoplifting is closely related to other theft crimes including petty theft and grand theft. That means, if you steal someone’s property, you can be convicted for either. So how can you be sure of the likely charges the prosecutor is going to press against you?
Petty theft is a much less severe crime in Canada. Petty theft is the theft of an item(s) that is under $950 as set out in the Canada Criminal Code, which does not involve the use of a firearm, and is not stolen off a person. Sentences may be as little as a fine of up to $1,000, six months in jail, or both.
Please note that the laws on larceny also state that an accused has to move the property to commit the offense. This “movement” can be for just a small distance. An accused must also have kept the property in question. It is a crime if the accused only kept the property for a very brief period of time.
Alternatively, grand theft is the unlawful taking of the property of another worth more than $950. Grand theft is a “wobbler” under the law, meaning that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony at the discretion of the prosecuting attorney.
As a felony, it carries a maximum of 3 years in province prison and as a misdemeanor, up to a year in county jail. There are some other types of grand theft where the property value is less Over $250 of agricultural or aquacultural products and certain livestock.
Burglary is typically defined as the unlawful entry into almost any structure (not just a home or business) with the intent to commit any crime inside (not just theft/larceny). No physical breaking and entering is required the offender may simply trespass through an open door.
As with robbery, in most cases burglary is a felony. Province laws tend to divide burglary into different levels of seriousness, depending on such factors as:
According to the law, commercial burglary is classified as a “wobbler” offense. The prosecutor might decide to “put up felony or misdemeanor” charges depending on the circumstances of the theft and your criminal history.
The term “petty theft” can be somewhat misleading. While petty theft is usually considered a minor offense, the legal consequences are not always “petty”. We understand that criminal charges can be a nerve-wracking experience. That is why having an empathetic lawyer on your side is important to your case. An experienced attorney has handled hundreds of shoplifting cases and is able to strategically negotiate to get the charges reduced or dismissed.
If you face shoplifting criminal charges, speak with a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. The defense lawyer 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.
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