Frequently Asked Questions
What is theft?
Generally, theft is any action of deceiving someone or taking anything that is not yours, for your benefit or another person’s benefit.
For a deeper understanding of what theft entails, let’s examine its definition as per Section 322 of the Criminal Code of Canada:
322(1) Everyone commits theft who fraudulently and without colour of right takes, or fraudulently and without colour of right converts to use or the use of another person, anything, whether animate or inanimate, with intent
- to deprive, temporarily or absolutely, the owner of it, or a person who has a special property or interest in it;
- to pledge it or deposit it as security;
- to part with it under a condition with respect to its return that the person who parts with it may be unable to perform; or
- to deal with it in such a manner that it cannot be restored in the condition in which it was at the time it was taken or converted.
322(2) A person commits theft when, with the intent to steal anything, he moves it or causes it to move or be moved, or begins to cause it to become movable.
Is it theft if I steal from someone who does not legally own the property I took?
A theft can still occur even if the property you took legally belonged to someone completely different. Any person with a property interest in an item taken can make a theft charge.
What is shoplifting?
Shoplifting is a category of theft offences, which entails stealing from a retail store. It’s considered a minor offence in Canada, on the low-end spectrum of criminal offences. However, shoplifting allegations still carry consequences, especially for repeat offences. Therefore, when charged with such or related crimes, it’s essential to have an experienced and committed lawyer to help you obtain a successful outcome.
In most cases, shoplifting crimes are not linked to financial troubles but rather underlying psychological issues. Zamani Law can help you access top physiologists who can identify the root of your shoplifting problem and help secure a favourable outcome and future.
Can I be guilty of theft if I gave the merchandise back?
Once a charge of theft has been placed, your criminal matter will proceed regardless of whether you returned the merchandise. Paying back any money or possessions alleged to have been stolen will not result in any automatic dropping of the charges. However, an offer to pay back the money or value of the property may be helpful in certain situations as a mitigating factor and result in a lower penalty. If the case against you is not very strong, your lawyer may be able to use an offer to pay back the money or return property as a bargaining tool that may result in the charges against you being dropped.
Is it theft if I stole from a person who doesn’t legally own the property?
Yes, it is theft if you took property from a person who does not own it legally. If the person was keeping the item for someone else or had any other interest in it, you will still face theft charges if you intentionally took the property without consent.
What are the penalties for theft?
There are two categories of theft offences, each carrying different sentences:
- Theft over $5,000: if the stolen property is worth more than $5,000, one is guilty of an indictable offence and can face up to 10 years in incarceration.
- Theft under $5,000: if the stolen property is worth less than $5,000, you can be found guilty of either an indictable offence, which carries a maximum sentence of 2 years, or an offence punishable by summary conviction, which has a maximum of 6 months in prison, a $5,000 fine or both.
Apart from incarceration and fines, theft conviction has other ramifications on one’s life, including:
- Travel restrictions, especially to the USA
- Loss of employment
- Probation orders and conditions
- Immigration issues for non-residents looking to become citizens
- Employment limitations
At Zamani Law, there are no theft charges that are too small or big for us to handle. If you or someone you know are facing theft allegations, contact our criminal defence attorneys for exceptional representation.
How can I get my theft charges diverted?
In Ontario, courthouses have diversion programs for theft charges that help the accused avoid a criminal record (assuming they have no previous criminal records). Diversion programs vary as per the courthouse, but they generally include donations to charity, community service, and fines.
When facing theft charges, the Crown Attorneys determine your eligibility for a diversion program. Some factors that determine your eligibility include the gravity of the offence, whether the stolen property was recovered, and prior criminal records. After fulfilling the conditions of your diversion program, the crown withdraws the charges against you.
If, for any reason, you are not eligible for a diversion program, an experienced criminal defence attorney can negotiate with the Crown Attorney’s office to reassess their decision. Contact our lawyers for a free consultation on your case or more information on diversion programs in Ontario.
What is an order of restitution?
An order of restitution is an order issued by a court requiring the accused to compensate the complainant for their loss or any damage incurred to their property or requiring them to return the stolen item to the complainant.
A restitution order can be issued as part and condition of probation or as a “free-standing order.” Generally, the order does not last longer than three years and requires the accused to maintain good behaviour during this period. It might also require the accused not to have any direct or indirect contact with the complainant. Failure to comply with a restitution order will most certainly result in a criminal charge.
Can you be charged with possession of stolen property?
Yes, you can be charged with possession of property (hot goods) obtained by crime, even if you are not the person who stole the items. For a successful conviction, the crown must prove that you had knowledge that the property in your possession was stolen or show that you should have known that it was obtained through illegal means. It’s illegal to buy, accept, or sell any item that you know was obtained through theft.
A conviction for possession of property obtained by crime can result in a jail term not exceeding 10 years.
I have been charged with theft; what should I do?
If you have been charged with theft, it’s advisable to stay quiet and request to speak to your lawyer. Having an attorney is your right as guaranteed by the Humans Rights Charter, and every person charged with a crime is entitled to one. Remember, every word you say to the police can be used against you. This is why it’s advisable to seek legal counsel, even if you’re innocent.
Zamani Law handles theft charges both under and over $5000 in the Toronto area. Contact Zamani Law for expert legal representation when facing shoplifting or other related allegations.