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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. A.S. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Driving while prohibited.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with this charge which carries a mandatory one year driving prohibition upon conviction.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to provide Crown counsel with information that concluded our client was not at all responsible for the motor vehicle accident and persuaded Crown to proceed on the lesser offence of driving without aa valid license. Our client was sentenced to a fine and a 3 month driving prohibition.

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

Charges: Mischief Over $5000; Assault Police Officer.
Issue: Whether the sentence ought to emphasize punishment or rehabilitation in this matter where our client was alleged to have caused over $100,000 in damage to his building.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to provide Crown counsel with materials confirming the rehabilitative steps our client had taken for his mental health. The cRown stayed the assault police officer charge and, after hearing Mr. Gauthier's submissions, the Court granted our client a conditional discharge and placed him on probation. No jail.

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

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the prosecution.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings on the assault charge. Our client entered into a 12 month Peace Bond. No criminal record.

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

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we were able to direct our client through, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with this prosecution.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to provide Crown counsel with information that allowed him to persuade Crown to enter a stay of proceedings. No criminal record.

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

Charges: Driving While Prohibited.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for Crown to proceed with the prosecution of this offence which carries a 12 month mandatory minimum driving prohibition.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown counsel to proceed on the lesser offence of driving without a valid licence. Our client received a $500 fine and a 30 day driving prohibition.

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

Charges: Sexual Interference.
Issue: Whether the Crown could prove that our client sexually interfered with his niece.
Result: After a 6 day trial, Mr. Johnson was able to persuade the trial judge that there was reasonable doubt as to the complainant's credibility and reliability. Not guilty. No jail. No criminal record.

R. vs. R.R. - Richmond Provincial Court

Charges: Theft Under $5000 (shoplifting).
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the prosecution.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to provide Crown counsel with information that led Crown to resolve this matter with a Caution Letter. No charges were approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. B.R. - Vancouver Youth Court

Charges: Assault Causing Bodily Harm; Assault with a Weapon.
Issue: Whether our client was acting in self defence when he injured the complainant with a knife during an altercation.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to provide information to Crown counsel that resulted in Crown declining to approve any charges. No criminal record.

R. v. C.C. - Surrey provincial Court

Charges: Impaired Driving, Dangerous Driving Causing Death. Issues: Whether police breached our client's Charter rights during the investigation; whether the court would accept the Crown's sentencing submission.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel that police breached our client's right against an unlawful seizure of his breath samples. This resulted in the Crown's inability to prove the Impaired Driving / Over .08 offences.  The Crown had originally been seeking up to 4.5 years jail, but sought a one year jail sentence on the Dangerous Driving Causing Death charge. After hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the court found that 5 months was the appropriate sentence.

R. vs. B.S. - North Vancouver RCMP Investigation

.Charge: Uttering Threats.
Issue: Whether there was a public interest in proceeding with the proposed charge.
Result: After Mr. Johnson made  representations to the investing officer, police advised that no charges would be forwarded to Crown counsel. No criminal record.

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

Charge: Driving While Prohibited.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the charge, which carries a one year mandatory minimum driving prohibition upon conviction.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to proceed on the lesser charge of driving without a valid drivers license. The court agreed with Mr. Mines' submissions and imposed a fine but did not impose any driving prohibition.

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

Charges: Driving While Prohibited.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the charge.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to allow our client to plead to the lesser offence of driving without a valid driver's license. Rather than face a mandatory minimum 12 month driving prohibition, our client was sentenced to a fine. No driving prohibition.  

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.