Case Study: Charges Withdrawn – Shoplifting (Theft Under $5,000)
While shopping at a Sephora, Ms. N. purchased some product, but concealed others and left the store without paying. She had never done anything criminal before; her record was completely clean. On her way out she was stopped by a Loss Prevention Officer who claimed to have seen her take the product. Having never had a run-in with law enforcement before, Ms. N. broke down, admitted to taking the products, and returned them. The officer called the police in, who charged Ms. N. with theft under $5,000 for shoplifting.
Ms. N. is far from the first person to make one mistake and end up charged. When approached she hadn’t attempted to lie, but admitted to her actions and accepted her punishment. She was remorseful and keeping someone like that out of the criminal justice system is a benefit to society; those who are remorseful should be treated leniently.
We explained the different potential outcomes to Ms. N, who expressed fear over a prison sentence. We agreed to work on a non-custodial sentence or having the charges withdrawn during our negotiations with the Crown.
As a young first-time offender the Crown was more likely to be open to giving Ms. N. a light resolution. One of the major considerations the Crown makes when choosing to proceed with charges is whether or not a conviction is in the best interests of the public. Convicting a first offender who showed fear and remorse would not be in the best interest.
What would be in the best interest of the public would be requiring Ms. N. to showcase her good behaviour. We discussed with the Crown the possibility of having the charges dropped in favour of some kind of service to the community or counselling sessions.
The Crown agreed and gave Ms. N. two choices: to either make a $150 donation to a charity or to engage in an anti-shoplifting program. The former would be cheaper than the fine she could face if convicted. Both options would result in the Crown dropping the charges and Ms. N. walking away with no criminal record. In the end, Ms. N. had learned a lesson and was relieved that her one-time mistake wouldn’t cost her for the rest of her life.