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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. P.S.A. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault.
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to direct Crown counsel to gaps in the police investigation resulting in Crown deciding to not approve any charge in this matter. No criminal record.

R. vs. S.J. - Port Coquitlam Provincial Court

Charge: Driving While Prohibited. Issue: Whether the crown…

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

Charge: Assault; Uttering Threats (domestic).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps our client achieved under our direction, whether there was a public interest in proceeding with the criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown counsel to stay the charges.  All restrictive conditions removed. No criminal record.

R. vs. C.S. - Port Coquitlam Provincial Court

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to point to a lack of evidence with respect to the charge resulting in Crown counsel entering a stay of proceedings. No criminal record.

R. vs. N.D. - Richmond Provincial Court

Charge: Sexual Assault.
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to direct Crown counsel to various flaws in the prosecution's case. On the eve of a 4 day trial, Crown agreed to resolve this matter by way of a nine month Peace Bond. No criminal record.

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

Charge: Driving While Prohibited.
Issue: Whether it was appropriate for Crown counsel to proceed on this charge, which carries a mandatory minimum 12 month driving prohibition.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to proceed on the lesser offence of driving without a valid driver's licence. After hearing Mr. johnson's submissions, the court imposed a $500 fine. No driving prohibition.

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

Charge: Assault Causing Bodily Harm.
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps our client had taken, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the criminal charge.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown counsel to stay the criminal charge. Our client entered into a Peace Bond for a period of 9 months. No criminal record.

R. vs. Z.H. - Port Coquitlam Youth Court

Charge: Assault Causing Bodily Harm.
Issue: Whether, given the history between our client and the complainant, it was reasonable for our client apply  the level of force he used.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to not approve any criminal charge but, rather, to resolve the matter through Restorative Justice. No criminal record.

Y.Y. vs. Superintendent of Motor Vehicles - Review of Driving Prohibition

Charge: Notice of Intent to Prohibit.
Issue: Whether RoadSafety BC had appropriate reasons to prohibit our client from driving for 4 months.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade the Superintendent's adjudicator that the 4 month driving prohibition was not warranted. The driving prohibition was reduced to 2 months.

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

Charges: Assault (x2); Threatening; Breach of Undertaking (domestic).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps our client had taken, whether it was appropriate for the Court to convict him.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown to proceed on only a single count of assault. After hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the Court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.  

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

Charges: Dangerous Driving Causing Bodily Harm; Driving Without Due Care and Attention.
Issue: Whether it was appropriate for Crown to charge our client under the Criminal Code or the Motor Vehicle Act in regard to an accident where our client's vehicle struck a cyclist from behind, causing serious injury.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to provide information to Crown which resulted in Crown proceeding under the Motor Vehicle Act. After hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the Court sentenced our client to a $1000 fine and limited his ability to drive for 12 months. No criminal conviction. No loss of insurance coverage. No jail.

R. vs. C.G. - North Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: s. 810 Peace Bond Application.
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps our client had taken, whether the complainant continued to have fear of our client.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to withdraw its Peace Bond application. No conditions. No 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.