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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. v. S.C. – Vancouver Police Investigation

Charge: Assault.
Issue: Whether there was credible evidence that would meet the charge approval standard.
Result: Mr. Gauthier provided information to the investigating officer that led the investigator to conclude that our client was not chargeable with a criminal offence. No charge approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. C.K. – Richmond Provincial Court

Charges: Assault; Forcible Confinement (domestic).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we were able to guide our through, whether it was in the public interest for our client to be sentenced to a criminal record.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to persuade Crown to proceed only on the assault charge and, after hearing Mr. Gauthier's submissions, the Court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

R.M. vs. Superintendent of Motor Vehicles

Charge: 90 Day Immediate Roadside prohibition.
Issue: Whether the police report established, on balance, that our client had refused to provide a breath sample during a roadside impaired driving investigation.
Result: The adjudicator agreed with Mr. Mines' submissions that our client's evidence was more reliable than the evidence set out in the Police Report to the Superintendent. The 90 day driving prohibition was overturned and our client was ruled eligible to resume driving.

R. vs. E.W. – Fort Nelson Provincial Court

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a criminal conviction.
Result: Upon reviewing the allegations, Mr. Mines made representations to Crown counsel resulting in Crown agreeing that there was no reasonable prospect of convicting our client. No charges were approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. H.K. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Assault Peace Officer; Mischief Under $5000.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with criminal charges.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to  persuade Crown counsel to allow our client into the Alternative Measures Program and to enter a stay of proceedings on both charges upon our client completing the program. No criminal record.

R. vs. R.S. – Richmond Provincial Court

Charge: Breach of Probation (from weapons charge).
Issue: Whether there was a public interest in proceeding with the prosecution of our client who had failed to complete a course of court ordered counselling.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to steer our client through an equivalent course of counselling. Upon completion, Crown counsel stayed the proceedings. No criminal record.

R. vs. S.P. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Mischief Causing Danger to Life.
Issue: Given the medical evidence Mr. Gauthier provided to Crown counsel, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to persuade Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings. No criminal record.

R. vs. R.A. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Breaking & Entering; Unlawful Confinement; Assault.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for the prosecution to continue against our client, a U.S. citizen who was in Canada on a visitor's visa.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings on all charges upon our client agreeing to a Deportation Order. No criminal record.

R. vs. P.N. – Surrey Provincial Court

Charge: Dangerous Driving Causing Death. Issue: Whether Crown could prove that our client had the necessary intent to prove that she was guilty of the criminal charge. Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to proceed under the Motor Vehicle Act rather than the Criminal Code. After hearing Mr. Mines'  submissions, the Court sentenced our client to 60 days to be served on weekends. The Crown had originally sought a sentence in the range of 2 years.

R. vs. L.A. – New Westminster Provincial Court

Charge: Breach of Probation (from domestic assault charge).
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to prosecute our client for failing to report and complete counselling.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to guide our client back onto an alternative course of rehabilitation and persuaded Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. M.K. – Richmond Provincial Court

Charges: Uttering Threats; Extortion.
Issue: Given the age of the charges and the rehabilitative steps our client had taken, whether a jail sentence was appropriate.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to seek a non custodial sentence. After hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the Court granted our client a suspended sentence and placed him on probation for 16 months. No jail.

R. vs. K.A. – Western Communities Provincial Court

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issues: Given the information we provided to Crown counsel regarding the complainant's past unlawful behaviour toward our client, whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: As a result of the information we provided, Crown counsel withdrew the charge. No further bail restrictions. No criminal record.

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.