How Is Shoplifting Handled In Canada?

Posted on: 21 October 2014

There isn't actually a crime called "shoplifting" but it is covered under Canadian theft laws. Shoplifting usually falls within the laws for theft under $5,000 and can be handled in a variety of ways. Like anyone accused of a crime, you have certain rights you should be aware of. Having a lawyer present is one of those rights.

Thefts Over and Under $5,000 in Canadian Law

All thefts over $5,000 are indictable offences, which are more complicated and have much stiffer penalties. Theft under $5,000 can be handled as either an indictable offence or a summary offence. Summary offence convictions can include fines, imprisonment for up to six months, or both.

What Rights Do You Have If You Are Detained by Store Management?

Once a store employee has stopped and detained you, he must call the police immediately. During the time you are waiting for the police, you have the same rights as when they arrive. The store employee cannot question you without advising you of your rights; however, you do not have to answer any questions.

You have the right to ask for a lawyer, or in the case of a minor, for your parent. The store employee does not have the right to search you or your property without your permission. Under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, statements made by a minor under duress to a person in authority may only be used in court under certain standards.

What Circumstances Are Considered By The Prosecutor?

Prosecutors look at factors such as the amount of the theft, the age of the offender and whether or not they have a previous record. A younger offender with no criminal record may receive a lighter sentence or probation.

Should You Ask For A Lawyer If You Are Detained For Theft?

It is always best to have a lawyer present during questioning, but whether one is needed depends on the circumstances. If the dollar value of the theft is very small, for example a child who stole candy bars, a lawyer may not be necessary. If, however, the offender is older and the theft is large, having a lawyer at all times is advisable.

What Is Diversion?

Diversion is a one-time-only form of punishment that is used in uncomplicated shoplifting cases for those with no prior criminal record. The judge sets the consequences, which is usually either community service or making a charitable donation. The amount of community service time or the donation amount is determined by the value of what you stole. Once the consequence is completed, you will sign an admission of wrongdoing and your charges are withdrawn.

Shoplifting is theft, which is a crime in Canada. A lawyer, like Binsky Whittle, is advisable if the theft is large and this is not your first offence. 


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