Can You Get a Criminal Record for Shoplifting in Canada?

Shoplifting, also known as “theft under $5000” , is a criminal offence in Canada. Not all criminal offences are treated the same, as the gravity of the crime impacts the gravity of the punishment. One thing that all criminal offences in Canada have in common, however, is that they can end up on your criminal record if you are convicted. Shoplifting in Canada is taken seriously, and if you are found guilty you will likely end up with a criminal record. Read on to learn about shoplifting in Canada and what you should do if charged with a minor theft or shoplifting. 

What is Theft in Canada?

Theft is described as fraudulently taking something to: deprive it from the person who owns it, deposit it as security, hold it from the owner with conditions of return the owner is unable to meet, or destroy the property beyond restoration. Theft begins at the time of moving the object, and it is only deemed theft if the owner is unaware of the item being taken. In other words, theft is taking something that doesn’t belong to you without the knowledge of the rightful owner. As per the Canadian Criminal Code, there are two main types of theft charges, theft under $5000 and theft over $5000. Shoplifting typically falls in the category of theft under $5000, which is why shoplifting is often referred to as a minor theft. 

What Kind of Offence is Shoplifting in Canada?

In Canada, shoplifting (theft under $5000) is a hybrid, criminal offence. This means that depending on the circumstances, the prosecution can decide whether the criminal charge should be a summary or an indictable offence. Determining whether the shoplifting charge is a summary offence or indictable offence has many different factors. A major contributor to whether or not the prosecution chooses to charge a defendant with a summary or indictable offence is whether or not you are a first time offender. First time offenders are often treated with more leniency than someone with multiple shoplifting charges. Some of the other factors that determine whether your charge will be summary or indictable is the gravity of the theft, whether there are additional charges (such as uttering threats or destruction of property), the age of the accused, and more. Generally speaking, Shoplifting would almost always be a Summary Conviction Offence.

What is the Punishment for Shoplifting in Canada?

Shoplifting Charges as a Summary Offence

If you are convicted of shoplifting charges (theft under $5000) as a summary offence, the maximum penalty is a fine up to $2000 and up to six months in prison. You can be sentenced to both these penalties or just one of them. These are the maximum penalties for a summary conviction for shoplifting, though, and if you are a first time offender or a young offender, the punishment will be much less severe. If your case goes to trial and you are found guilty, you will also likely end up with a permanent, Canadian criminal record for shoplifting.  For first-time offenders, it is often possible to resolve the file without a Criminal Record, by utilizing alternative measures, when appropriate, and when it is in your best interest to do so.

What are the Defences Against Shoplifting in Canada?

If you’re facing charges for shoplifting in Canada, it’s important to talk to a qualified defence lawyer. Your lawyer will be able to help you understand your rights, your charges, as well as put together a defence. Here are a few common defences to shoplifting charges in Canada.

Lack of Intent

The most common defence against a shoplifting charge is lack of intent. If you did not have a fraudulent intention to commit the theft (such as leaving a store and forgetting to pay for items), then there was no intention to commit a crime.

Identity of the Accused

Another defence against shoplifting charges is that you are not the person who committed the theft. If the charges are based on surveillance videos that are unclear and you do not have the stolen items in question, your lawyer may be able to make a defence case that you are not the person in the video evidence. 

Colour of Right

This defence is less common in shoplifting cases, but a colour of right defence states that you truly believed you had a right to the items in question. If you are charged with shoplifting an item you truly believed you had a right to take, your lawyer may be able to help you avoid a conviction.

What Should You Do if Charged with Shoplifting in Canada?

If you’re charged with shoplifting in Canada, the first thing you should do is contact a qualified defence lawyer. Your defence lawyer will help you navigate your case, and is the only way you can end up without a criminal record. A lawyer may be able to negotiate a guilty plea without a criminal charge being added to your permanent record. A defence lawyer will also help you get the best possible outcome of your case. 

Brian McGlashan is a highly effective defence lawyer in the Edmonton area. He understands the ins and outs of criminal cases, and will help you create the best defence against a shoplifting charge. If you are charged with shoplifting in Canada, contact Brian McGlashan!

Brian McGlashan, co-founder of McGlashan & Company was called to the Alberta Bar in 1995. Brian has appeared in all levels of Alberta Courts. Brian practices criminal law with a primary focus on Impaired Driving charges (DUI). Brian is a member of the Criminal Trial Lawyers’ Association.