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Employee Theft

The Charge

People accused of stealing from their employer are generally charged with theft or fraud offences pursuant to s. 322 or s. 380 of the Criminal Code. The offence is either for an amount over $5000 or under $5000. Theft from an employer is a very serious offence because it involves a breach of trust, which under s. 718 of the Code, is deemed to be an “aggravating circumstance.” A conviction for employee theft can have extremely serious consequences. Where the amount is in excess of $5000, the Crown will generally seek a jail sentence. Due to some relatively recent amendments to the Criminal Code, it is not possible for a court to impose a conditional sentence (house arrest) for a theft or fraud over $5000 offence. Because people charged with employee theft face the very real possibility of a jail sentence, it is imperative that they seek the assistance of experienced defence counsel as soon as possible.

The Investigation

Every employee theft case is different, but in the majority of cases, the scenario goes something like this:

Our client is at work and is abruptly escorted by a manager or security officer into a meeting room. There, they are confronted with an accusation that they have been stealing or otherwise misappropriating company property or funds. Because this is not yet a police investigation, the employee is not usually advised of their rights under the Charter to remain silent or to immediately be allowed to call a lawyer. It is certainly not uncommon for people in this situation to make incriminating comments. Typically, the employee is fired from their position and told that police will be contacted and the investigation will continue. It is our experience that the employer does not yet understand the scope of their loss and will therefore try hard to obtain a confession and an agreement to repay the funds.

A person facing an accusation of stealing from their employer usually faces pressure of both a criminal charge as well as a civil action taken by the employer who wants to recover their loss. Where the offence is theft or fraud over $5000 there is a very real prospect of jail. It is therefore certainly very prudent to obtain advice from a lawyer who is experienced in defending these types of charges.

Recent Successes

R. vs. M.P. – ICBC insurance fraud investigation.

Charge: Insurance fraud.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with a criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to steer our client through the investigation by helping our client rectify the fraudulent information that he had provided to I.C.B.C. No charges approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. S.B. – Port Coquitlam Provincial Court

Charges: Assault Causing Bodily Harm; Assault Police Officer.
Issue: Given our client's severe mental health issues, whether he was criminally responsible for the offences.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to provide information about our client's mental health history to Crown counsel and, ultimately, was able to persuade Crown to end the prosecution. Stay of proceedings. No jail. No criminal record.

R. vs. J.H. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Mischief Under $5000.,br> Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with a criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier provided information about our client to Crown counsel and was able to persuade Crown that there was no public interest in prosecuting this matter. No charge approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. B.C. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Mischief Under $5000.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with a criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier provided information about our client to Crown counsel and was able to persuade Crown that there was no public interest in prosecuting this matter. No charge approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. W.F. – Richmond Provincial Court

Charge: Assault.
Issue: Whether this road rage incident was a criminal offence or a consensual fight.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to present Crown counsel with video evidence which confirmed that the complainant had engaged in a consensual altercation. Stay of proceedings. No criminal record.

R. vs. K.Y. – Surrey Provincial Court

Charge: Assault Causing Bodily Harm.
Issue: Whether the 18 month jail sentence Crown had sought was reasonable in all the circumstances.
Result: Mr. Johnson provided information to the Crown and Court and ultimately persuaded the trial judge to sentence our client to a 7 month conditional sentence , followed ny 18 months probation. No jail.

R. vs. G.W. – North Vancouver RCMP Investigation

Charge: Assault with a weapon.
Issue: Whether there was sufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able collect information from a defence witness and represent to police that our client should not  be prosecuted. Police concluded their investigation without recommending any criminal charge against our client. No criminal record.

R. vs. J.S. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault with a Weapon.
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we directed our client to complete, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to persuade Crown counsel to not approve any charge prior to the scheduled first court appearance. No criminal record.

R. vs. S.L. – Port Coquitlam Provincial Court

Charges: Possession of a loaded prohibited firearm; Unlawful storage of firearms.
Issue: Whether the warrant used to search our client's premises was lawful; whether our client posed a risk to re-offend.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to point to potential flaws in the warrant and police search which culminated in Crown's agreement to not pursue their original sentencing position of a 2-3 year jail sentence. Rather, the court accepted a joint submission of a 12 month conditional sentence with a curfew for the first six months. No jail.

R. vs. M.K.A. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Assault with a Weapon (x2).
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for the court to grant our client a conditional discharge.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to direct our client through a course of rehabilitative counselling, and after hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the trial judge granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. K.D. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Assault (domestic).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps that we were able to guide our client through, whether there was a public interest in continuing with the prosecution.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to amend the bail condition to allow "permissive contact" with the complainant, and after providing Crown with a report from our client's psychologist Crown counsel ended the prosecution. Stay of proceedings. No criminal record.

R. vs. J.L. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Sexual assault; Unlawful Confinement; Assault by Choking.
Issue: Given the impact of the additional evidence that Mr. Johnson provided to Crown counsel, whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: Crown counsel agreed that the new evidence significantly undermined the strength of the case.  Crown counsel entered a stay of proceedings, bringing the prosecution to an end. No jail. No criminal record.

The Defence

We are always pleased when clients contact us immediately after being investigated for employee theft. This is because we can offer these clients the very best potential outcome – the chance of no charges being approved at all. In our many years of defending employee theft charges, we have learned that many employers are more interested in recovering their losses through civil means than they are in pursuing criminal charges. In these cases, and even in cases that have already gone to police and Crown has approved charges, our goal is to obtain a civil settlement where appropriate to do so. This entails our client repaying the employer on the employer’s promise to provide a full release from further civil liability. In many cases, civil compensation is sufficient and criminal charges are not pursued. In cases that do proceed, restitution will be considered a mitigating factor on sentencing.

In cases where Crown has approved employee theft charges, we have been successful in obtaining non-custodial sentences for our clients. For theft/fraud under $5000 cases, we have obtained conditional discharges for several of our clients. Even in theft/fraud over $5000 cases, we have obtained suspended sentences (probation) and conditional sentence orders, by persuading Crown to charge the offence as a series of theft under $5000 charges rather than a single count of theft over $5000.

Of course in some cases, in the face of strong Crown evidence, we have no alternative but to go to trial to defend our client. Often, employee theft cases are complex matters with regard to the laws of evidence. We are well versed in the various technical rules of evidence as set out in the Canada Evidence Act. These rules include various provisions that the Crown must comply with when they want to introduce business records, banking records, or other documents into the trial record. Our experience allows us to develop arguments at trial which are aimed at protecting our client’s rights to have a fair trial as guaranteed by the Charter.

Start with a free consultation.

If you are being investigated by police or if you’ve been charged with a criminal or driving offence, don’t face the problem alone. Being accused of an offence is stressful. The prospects of a criminal record or jail sentence can be daunting. Even if you think there is no defence, we may be able to help. To schedule a free initial consultation with one of our Vancouver lawyers, contact us now.