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Charged with Theft – What Do I Need to Know?

Theft Defined

How does the law define theft? That is the starting point to help you understand the criminal offence of theft under Canadian law. Theft is considered to occur where a person fraudulently and without “colour of right” (mistaken assumption of entitlement or right over the property) takes or converts a thing with the intent to deprive the owner of the thing for the benefit of the person. “Taking” here refers to the physical movement of an item such as personal property and “converting” refers to transforming the item stolen into another form for personal gain. For example, a person steals a book and sells it for money. That book has now transformed into money; this is considered a conversion.

Defences for Charges of Theft

While a person may be charged with theft, that person is innocent until proven guilty. The onus is on the Crown to prove each element of the alleged offence beyond a reasonable doubt. The criminal defence lawyer will take on the role of advancing any and every defence available in a client’s case. Let’s get into some of the defences for the criminal offence of theft.

Some possible defences include: defence of necessity, defence of mistake of fact defence of accident or the defence of identity. To elaborate, the defence of necessity refers to a scenario where a person has no choice but to commit theft for a public or personal good such as saving someone’s life or getting someone to the hospital. A mistake of fact scenario could be where a person inadvertently takes someone else’s car that is identical to their own.

The scenario for a defence of accident would be, for instance, where the accused person’s child puts a chocolate bar in the accused’s jacket without his or her knowledge and the two leave the store without payment. A criminal defence lawyer will articulate the context of the incident to the Crown with a view to reach a reasonable resolution in the disposition of the case.

A Word on Theft under $5,000

There are two classifications for the criminal offence of theft, namely, theft under $5,000 and theft over $5,000. The former is a hybrid offence, which means that the Crown can elect to prosecute the case in two ways, summarily (less serious) or by indictment (more serious). The Crown makes this decision based on a number of factors such as but not limited to the nature, quality and monetary value of the theft and the presence of any aggravating factors.

If the Crown proceeds by indictment, then the associated penalty would be heftier (such as higher fine and jail time) than if the Crown were to proceed summarily.

When it comes to theft from a large retail store, it is common for a letter to be sent on the retailer’s behalf from a lawyer demanding that several hundred dollars be paid or they will sue. Do not fall victim to this kind of intimidation, provide us with all of your documents, and we will take care of the situation.

Aitken Robertson Team of Defence

Contact our office for a free 30-minute consultation if you have been criminally charged with the offence of theft or any other criminal offence. Remember, you are innocent until proven guilty and your criminal defence lawyer has a lot to do and say on your behalf, while protecting your rights in the interim.

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