If you have been charged with theft or fraud under $5000.00 and this is your first or second offence, you may still be able to secure a pre-trial resolution that will result in your charges being dropped. Specifically, if you are a first time offender charged with theft or fraud under $5000.00, there is a chance that you could be eligible for a diversion program that will allow you to avoid a criminal record.
One of the most common ways to divert theft or fraud charges is through the alternative measures program. If you are accepted to the alternative measures program, you will likely be required to pay restitution to the victim of your crime, and will likely need to do some amount of community service or complete other conditions stipulated by the program. However, once you have successfully completed the program, the Crown Prosecutor will withdraw your charges and you will not receive a criminal record.
If you cannot divert your theft or fraud charges, the next best way to avoid a criminal record would be to apply for a discharge. Discharges can be either absolute or conditional, and both will allow you to escape criminal conviction. If you are granted a conditional discharge, you will have to abide by a set of conditions that are agreed to in court, and these conditions will remain in place for a set period of time. If you do not breach the terms of the order, once that period of time has elapsed you will be permanently discharged from your offence. If you receive an absolute discharge, you will be able to walk away from the court the same day with no criminal conviction, and no need to comply with court-mandated conditions. However, it should be noted that absolute discharges are only granted in extremely rare circumstances.
If it turns out that you are not a good candidate for a discharge, you can then look at minimally restrictive sentencing options such as a conviction and fine alone, or a conviction with a fine and probation. Should you be facing a period of incarceration, your lawyer can negotiate with the Crown on your behalf prior to sentencing (and ideally prior to trial), about making a joint recommendation for a suspended sentence instead of time spent in jail. A suspended sentence will require that you adhere to strict bail conditions, however, you will be able to remain out of custody so long as you do not breach the terms of your order.
No matter your circumstances, in order to facilitate a favourable pre-trial resolution you should immediately strive to pay restitution to the victim of your crime, consider writing an apology letter, and seek out counselling or do some community service. Both theft and fraud charges are taken very seriously in Canada, as such, if you are able to show that you are remorseful about your actions and you have incentive to right your wrongs, you will be in a better position to negotiate a favourable resolution or sentencing submission with the Crown.