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Shoplifting / Theft under $5000

The Charge

People accused of shoplifting may be charged with theft under $5000, pursuant to s. 322 of the Criminal Code. A shoplifting conviction can have very serious consequences, including being denied entry to the United States and not being employable in certain fields such as the financial and government sectors. For people who are not citizens or permanent residents, a shoplifting conviction will lead to removal from Canada. Over the years, many of our clients have expressed regret and shock in the aftermath of being charged with shoplifting. Fortunately, we are often able to resolve shoplifting charges resulting in no criminal record for our clients.

The Investigation

The Criminal Code describes theft as “taking or fraudulently converting anything from another person with the intent to deprive the owner of that thing.” Theft is committed when, with intent to steal something, the accused “moves it.” In the context of a shoplifting charge, the Crown will typically call a store employee or a loss prevention officer to testify that they observed the accused select an item belonging to the store, conceal it in some fashion, and walk past a cash desk without offering to pay. Typically, when a store security person makes such an observation, they will affect a “citizen’s arrest” and detain the suspected shoplifter for police. Often, store security will look for any video surveillance recordings to back up their observations. It is common practice for police to release most shoplifting suspects with a Promise to Appear in Provincial Court at a future date.

Many of our clients have expressed surprise that retailers and police would actually pursue theft under $5000 against them for a relatively small shoplifting offence. In fact, most retailers in British Columbia have a policy to prosecute all shoplifters, including people suspected of making false returns or switching price tags on products. British Columbia prosecutors have a policy of approving charges against all persons when they receive evidence of a crime that will lead to a “substantial likelihood of a conviction.”

Recent Successes

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.

R. vs. L.B. - North Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Fraud Over $5000 (from employer).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps our client had completed and given the compelling explanation of why the offence occurred, whether it was in the public interest for our client to recieve a conviction.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade the Crown to proceed summarily on the lesser offence of Fraud Under $5000, and after hearing Mr. Johnson's submission, the court granted our client an absolute discharge. No criminal record.

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

Charge: Assault.
Issue: Whether there was substantial likelihood of a conviction in this “road rage” assault case.
Result: Mr. Johnson provided information to the Crown that suggested our client was acting in self defence. No charge approved. No criminal record.

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

Charge: Theft Over $5000.
Issue: Given the steps taken by our client to repay a substantial amount of the alleged $70,000 theft from his employer, whether it was in the public interest for the Crown to pursue a jail sentence that, given the breach of trust, would normally be called for.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel that they could only prove theft in the amount of $40,000. He was then able to persuade Crown to proceed summarily on 8 counts of Theft Under $5000 and to make a joint submission for a conditional sentence. After hearing Mr. Mines’ submissions, the court granted our client a 6 month conditional sentence and made a stand alone restitution order. No jail.

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

Charge: Assault with a Weapon; Assault Causing Bodily Harm.
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps Mr. Johnson was able to steer our client through, whether our client would be convicted of the offences.
Result: After hearing Mr. Johnson’s submissions on our client’s behalf, the Judge granted our client a conditional discharge. No conviction; no criminal record.

UBC Independent Investigations Office vs. B.F.

Charge: Sexual Assault.
Issue: Whether the complainant could prove her allegation of being sexually assaulted.
Result: Mr. Johnson provided information to the investigator on our client’s behalf, and at the conclusion of the hearing, the allegation was dismissed.

The Defence

Here at Mines & Company, we are always pleased when clients contact us immediately after being charged with shoplifting. This is because we can offer these clients the very best potential outcome – the chance of persuading Crown counsel to not approve the charge at all. To understand this, one must understand some basics about the Court Process. Contrary to popular belief, police do not actually “charge” suspects. Instead, police “recommend charges” to Crown counsel, who, if they see there is a “substantial likelihood of a conviction,” will approve the charge. Approving the charge is what creates the beginning of a record in terms of criminal databases such as the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC).

We’ve had many successful cases where we’ve been able to persuade Crown counsel to not approve shoplifting charges. We are able to achieve this excellent result in situations where clients have contacted us early in the process; prior to Crown receiving the police file. In such situations we take a full background briefing from our client including their family and work circumstances; any financial, physical or mental health issues that may have impacted their decision to shoplift. Where Crown counsel concludes that we have presented an appropriate case, they will, rather than prosecuting the individual, allow our client into the Alternative Measures Program, which is, literally, an alternative to the court system where a person can take responsibility for a relatively minor criminal act in a manner that results in no criminal record. Although alternative measures involves an admission of responsibility and may involve conditions such as community work service, the impact is significantly less severe than a criminal record for shoplifting.

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.