Shoplifting / Theft under $5000
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 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.”