In Canada, you can be charged with theft when you take or convert anything that belongs to another person with the intent to deprive that person temporarily or permanently of that good. To convert something means that you acquired some one else’s property, and then transformed it into another good for your own benefit. For example, you can unlawfully convert something when you innocently and accidentally acquire someone else’s money, and then you spend it while knowing that it was not rightfully yours in the first place.
In order to be found guilty of theft in Canada, the Crown Prosecutor will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt each of the following elements:
- That you moved something, caused something to be moved, or began to move something that belonged to someone else;
- That you moved the property with intent to steal it either temporarily or absolutely without the owner’s consent; and,
- The approximate value of the property you tried to steal.
Because many places are monitored with CCTV footage, it is often the case that there is strong evidence of your theft, especially in cases of shoplifting. However, if you have been charged with theft and there appears to be very strong evidence against you, do not give up hope and plead guilty. With the assistance of a good criminal defence lawyer, there could be a chance that you can walk away from your charges without a criminal record.
The Difference Between Theft Under $5000 And Theft Over $5000
In Canada, theft charges fall into two categories: theft over $5000.00 and theft under $5000.00.
Theft over $5000.00 is the more serious of the two charges and it is a straight indictable offence for which you can face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Theft under $5000.00 is a hybrid offence which means that the Crown will be able to choose to prosecute you either summarily or by indictment. If the Crown chooses to prosecute you by indictment, they will likely be seeking jail time. Even if the Crown chooses to prosecute you summarily, you can still face up to 6 months in jail if you are convicted of theft under $5000.00.
Whether you are being charged summarily or by indictment, your theft charges will be taken seriously by the Crown. Unfortunately, many people mistakenly believe that their charges will simply be dropped because they did not steal anything of great value. This is simply not the case. Even if you are first-time offender and you have been charged with stealing goods of very little value, if you are convicted of theft in Canada you will end up with a criminal record.
The Penalty for Theft in Canada:
If you are convicted of theft in Canada, there is a very wide range of sentences that you can receive. The sentence that you get for committing theft will depend heavily on the particular circumstances of your offence, as well as your personal circumstances.
For example, when sentencing you the court will consider things such as the value of the goods that you stole, whether you breached a position of trust to steal them, and whether you have a pre-existing criminal record. For example, if you breached a position of trust by stealing from your employer while at work, it will be considered a very aggravating factor and will likely lead to a significantly harsher sentence. Further, if you have an existing criminal record with recent theft charges, you can also expect that the severity of your penalty will likely be increased.