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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. C.B. - Vancouver Police Investigation

Charge: Possession of proceeds of crime.
Issue: Whether there was any lawful authority to arrest our client and seize funds from him.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade the investigating officer that there was no basis to search our client and to return the $2400 cash that he had seized. No charges approved. Not criminal record.

R. vs. R.L. - Surrey Provincial Court

Charge: Assault.(domestic)
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we were able to guide our client through, whether our client would be convicted of assaulting his son.
Result: Notwithstanding the breach of trust, after hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the court granted our client a 12 month conditional discharge.

R. vs. S.B. - New Westminster Provincial Court

Charge: Public Mischief x2; Assault Police Officer.
Issue: Given our client's personal circumstances and his rehabilitation, whether there was a public interest in proceeding with the criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to allow our client into the Alternative Measures Program and, upon its completion, to direct a stay of proceedings. No criminal record.

R. v. A.M. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the prosecution.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to guide our client through a course of rehabilitative steps and was then able to persuade Crown counsel to direct a stay of proceedings. no criminal record.

R. vs. M. P. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault Police Officer, Obstruct Police Officer.
Issue: Whether, in the circumstances, the police lawfully arrested our client.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel that the arrest was unlawful and that, therefore, our client was able to resist the arrest. Stay of Proceedings prior to trial. No criminal record.

R. vs. S.H. - Vancouver Police Investigation

Charge: Assault.
Issue: Whether the evidence was sufficient to support a criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Johnson made representations to the investigating officers which ultimately persuaded police to not forward any charges to Crown counsel. No criminal record.

R. vs. H.J. - Surrey Provincial Court

Charge: Unlawful Storage of Firearms.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the criminal charge.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to direct a stay of proceedings upon our client agreeing to a 5 year firearms prohibition. No criminal record.

R. vs. T.Y. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Domestic Assault (x2).
Issue: Given the extensive rehabilitative steps our client took, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the charges.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings on both charges. Our client was able to reconcile with his family. No criminal record.

R. vs. M.R. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Mischief Under $5000.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the charge, given the excessive force used in arresting our client.
Result: Mr. Johnson provided information to Crown on our client's behalf and was able to persuade Crown to enter a stay of proceedings. No criminal record.

R. vs. J.T. - Surrey Provincial Court

Charges: Assault; Resist /Obstruct Police.
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction and whether there was a public interest in proceeding with the charges.
Result: Mr. Johnson provided Crown with additional information regarding the alleged facts of the assault complaint and the excessive force used by police in arresting our client.  Ultimately Mr. Johnson persuaded Crown counsel to stay the proceedings on both charges. No criminal record.

R. vs. J.M. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault Causing Bodily Harm.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for our client to receive a conviction on this charge.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade the Court to grant our client a conditional discharge. No conviction.

R. vs. T.A. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Commit Indecent Act.
Issue: Whether it was appropriate for Crown to proceed with the charge.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to present information on our client's behalf and was able to persuade Crown counsel that there was no longer any public interest in proceeding with this matter. Stay of proceedings. Warrant cancelled. 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.