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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. J.A. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Personation, Use of Forged Identity Documents, Resist Arrest.
Issue: Whether the search and seizure of the documents was an unlawful Charter breach.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown and the Court that, in all the circumstances, it was in the public interest to grant our client a conditional discharge without any reporting condition. 

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

Charges: Assault with a Weapon; Assault Causing Bodily Harm (domestic).
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction and whether it was in the public interest to proceed.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to convince Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings just prior to the trial date. No criminal record.

R. vs. J.B. - ICBC Fraud Investigation

Charge: Theft Under$5000.
Issue: Whether there was a public interest in approving the charge.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown counsel that there was no public interest in approving any charge whatsoever. No criminal record.

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

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issue: Whether it was appropriate for our client to be granted a conditional discharge.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade the trial judge to grant our client a conditional discharge rather than the conviction that Crown counsel was seeking. No criminal record.

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

Charge: Theft Under$5000.
Issue: Whether there was a public interest in approving the charge.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown counsel that there was no public interest in approving any charge whatsoever. No criminal record.

R. vs. O.A. - Surrey Provincial Court

Charge: Assault (domestic). Issue: Given the lack of clarity…

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

strong>Charges: Sexual Assault; Assault; Theft Under; Breach of Undertaking.
Issue: Given our client's circumstances and the circumstances of the allegations, whether it was in the public interest for Crown to proceed with all charges.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to proceed only on the assault charge and to stay proceedings on all other charges. After considering Mr. mines' submissions, the Court granted our client a conditional discharge and placed him on probation for 12 months. No criminal conviction.

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

Charges: Assault with a Weapon; Assault Police Officer.
Issue: Given some weakness in the assault with weapon charge and the rehabilitative steps our client had taken, whether it was appropriate for the Crown to seek the jail sentence they were originally seeking.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings on the AWW charge and to jointly seek a conditional discharge on the assault police officer charge. No jail. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. S.K. - Surrey Provincial Court

Charges: Fraud Over $5000 (from Employer).
Issue: Given the civil settlement  we were able to obtain on our client's behalf, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with criminal charges.
Result: Mr. Johnson, after successfully negotiating a civil settlement with the complainant, was able to persuade Crown counsel to not approve the criminal charges that RCMP had recommended. No jail. No criminal record.

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

Charges: Impaired Driving; Driving Over .08.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for Crown counsel to proceed with the criminal charges.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to allow our client to resolve this matter by pleading guilty to a lesser offence under the Motor Vehicle Act. Our client received a driving prohibition and fine. No criminal record.

R. v. S.W. - Courtenay RCMP Investigation

Charges: Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking.
Issue: Whether the search of the vehicle and our client was lawful.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to steer our client through the investigation and made representations to police that the search was unlawful. Police declined to recommend any  charges. No criminal record.

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

Charges: Assault with a Weapon.
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we guided our client through, whether it was in the public interest for Crown to seek a conviction on this charge.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to permit our client to plead to the lesser offence of common assault. After hearing Mr. Johnson's submissions, the court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

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.