Every human being is, at one point or another in his or her life, tempted to do something dishonest. Generally honest people have been known to give in to the temptation. This can often result in charges being laid for theft, fraud, mischief, or other property crimes.
One of the most common types of theft in Canada is shoplifting. Although there is no offence called “Shoplifting” in the Criminal Code of Canada, it is a very common kind of theft. In Canada, theft is qualified as “under $5000” or “over 5000 dollars”.
A shoplifting charge is usually under five thousand dollars and is typically at the lower end of the range. In such circumstances, there are often ways to remove the charge (or “divert” the charge) from the criminal justice system. This usually prevents the person from getting a Criminal Record (often in exchange for hours of community service, a charitable donation, participation in a seminar of some kind etc.)
If your theft or fraud charge is somewhat more serious than a shoplifting charge, then a “diversion program” may not be available for you. In such cases your lawyer or paralegal will consider the options available. These options are typically plead guilty and ask for a low sentence, or contest the matter at trial. If you plead guilty, it is possible for the Court to give you an absolute discharge or conditional discharge or suspend the sentence. These various sentences are among the lowest in the justice system and, in some instances can protect you in part from the effects of a traditional “criminal record”. These lower penalties are usually reserved for first or second time offenders.
If you have a number of prior charges, you may not have the chance to take a lower end penalty and a trial may be better suited for you. Remember, in Canada, the prosecutor needs to prove your guilt. This means its witnesses must be present, must identify you and what was taken and prove that you were not entitled to it. You are also able to raise certain defences which may raise a reasonable doubt in the mind of the court that, for example, you didn’t take it deliberately, but it was by oversight.
If your theft or fraud is very serious (treated indictably or by indictment instead of by summary procedure) then David Anber can help you understand your options.