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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. 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.

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

Charge: Assault.
Issue: Whether it was appropriate for our client to receive a suspended sentence despite having two prior assault convictions.
Result: After hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the trial judge granted our client a suspended sentence with 12 months of " non reporting" probation.  No jail.

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

Charges: Indecent Act; Mischief (reduced to Peace Bond).
Issue: Whether the Crown could prove that our client intended to commit a criminal offence.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings on the the criminal charges upon our client entering into a Peace Bond. No criminal record.

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

Charges: Assault.
Issue: Given the Covid-19 pandemic, whether it was appropriate to refer our client into the Alternative Measures Program for this assault by spitting offence.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to provide Crown counsel with compelling information about our client which resulted in Crown allowing our client into Alternative Measures and staying the charge upon our client completing the program. No criminal record.

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

Charges: Assault with a Weapon; Uttering Threats x2; Unlawful Confinement.
Issues: Whether Crown could prove that a weapon was used or that the complainant was unlawfully confined.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to accept pleas to the lesser charges of common assault and uttering a threat. After hearing Mr. Mines' submissions on our client's behalf, the trail judge granted our client a conditional discharge. No jail; no permanent criminal record.

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

Charge: Driving while prohibited.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the prohibited driving charge.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown counsel to proceed on the lesser charge of driving without possessing a valid driver's licence. Rather than the 12 month minimum mandatory driving prohibition, our client received a 4 month prohibition.

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

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we were able to guide our client through, whether it was in the public interest to continue with the criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings on the assault charge upon you entering into a s. 810 peace bond. No criminal record.

R. vs. R.M. - Insurance fraud investigation

Charge: Fraud Under $5000.
Issue: Whether there was a public interest in proceeding with the prosecution in this extended health insurance fraud matter.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to negotiate a civil settlement and to persuade the investigator to not pursue a prosecution. No criminal record.

R. vs. D.P. - Vancouver provincial Court

Charge: Uttering a Threat (reduced to Peace Bond).
Issues: Whether the words uttered were clearly a threat or not.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel that the words were vague. Crown agreed to end the criminal prosecution upon our client entering into a Peace Bond with a "no contact" condition. No criminal record.

R. vs. B.R. - Port Coquitlam Provincial Court

Charges: Mischief to Property (x2).
Issue: Whether, given our client's circumstances, it was appropriate to continue the criminal prosecution of this matter which involved damage in excess of $5000 to two vehicles.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown counsel to allow our client into the Alternative Measures Program and to stay both criminal charges upon completion. No criminal record.

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

Charges: Assault, Uttering Threats.
Issue: Given the context of this threatening and assault by spitting offence, whether it was appropriate for our client to be convicted.
Result: Mr. Gauthier provided additional information to the Crown and the Court about our client and was able to persuade the judge to grant our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

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

Charges: Sexual Assault (reduced to assault).
Issue: Given our client's mental health issues, whether it was in the public interest for Crown to continue with the sex assault prosecution.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to provide information top Crown counsel and to persuade Crown to proceed with a charge of common assault. After hearing Mr. Johnson's submissions, the court granted our client a conditional discharge. no criminal conviction. no jail, no sex offender registry.

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.