Being charged with theft for shoplifting can be an immensely emotional ordeal. From the moment of arrest, people usually know that they made a major mistake. On top of the highly public nature of the arrest and the immediate embarrassment that stems from that, there are often a barrage of different questions running through their head: Will this affect my ability to apply for university? Will I lose my job? How will this affect my immigration status? How will I explain this to my parents?
We know that this is an immensely stressful time in your life and are committed to helping you navigate these issues in a way that allows you to avoid the consequences that you’re most concerned with.
What to Do if You Have Been Charged with a Property Offence
REMAIN SILENT AND SPEAK TO A LAWYER
If you’ve been charged with theft, it is absolutely vital that you exercise your right to consult with a lawyer immediately. More importantly, you should invoke your right to remain silent, and refrain from incriminating yourself by making any statements to the police.
You should not be providing any evidence to the police that can (and will) later be used against you at trial.
The role of the police officer is not to be judge and jury; they are not there to hear your side of the story and evaluate it on its merits. Their role is to gather evidence of the crime that they’re investigating with the goal of aiding the prosecutor in securing a conviction. Therefore, you should not be discussing this matter with anyone other than your lawyer.
MENTALLY PREPARE YOUR DEFENCE
Generally speaking, if you have a good recollection about the events in question, it is usually a good idea that you reflect upon your version of events, and especially take note of:
- Potential witnesses;
- The words that were exchanged between you, the complainant, and/or the arresting officer;
- At what point you were afforded your right to counsel;
It is also a good idea to keep a hold of any receipts that you may have that prove ownership.
STEP INTO OUR OFFICE
UNDERSTANDING PROPERTY OFFENCES AND WHAT TO EXPECT
What is theft?
Theft is the taking of property that does not belong to you with the intention of depriving its true owner of said property. It is not uncommon for a charge of theft to be accompanied by a charge of possession of property obtained by crime.
What other property offences are there?
There are all sorts of other property offences that the Criminal Code explicitly prohibits, like: robbery, breaking and entering, motor vehicle theft, possession of property obtained by crime, mischief, and criminal trespassing. Additionally, the crime of theft is divided into two distinct categories: Theft over $5,000 and Theft under $5,000.
What defences are available for theft?
Theft is a specific intent offence, meaning that the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you stole the property with the intention of depriving the owner. In other words, if you believed that the property belonged to you or were simply absentminded and forgot to put an item back, that is not theft.
I’ve been charged with a property offence, how can this file be resolved?
Generally speaking, we like to resolve shoplifting charges through the use of social programs (like Diversion Programs) or by negotiating with the prosecutor before the charges have even been authorized to have the file treated through dejudiciarisation (essentially, a warning). When those options aren’t available, we find that a positive outcome is to negotiate for a discharge (where you plead guilty but no conviction is registered, meaning that you avoid the imposition of a criminal record).