We successfully represent clients from all over the Lower Mainland charged with shoplifting, usually sparing our clients from a criminal record. Although shoplifting is a minor offence, the consequences of a shoplifting conviction should not be underestimated.
What Exactly Is Shoplifting?
The term “shoplifting” does not appear anywhere in the Criminal Code but is used commonly to refer to the theft of merchandise, products or items from stores.
Shoplifting is prosecuted as “theft” under Section 334 of the Criminal Code, which reads as follows:
334. Except where otherwise provided by law, every one who commits theft
(a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years, where … the value of what is stolen exceeds five thousand dollars; or
(b) is guilty
(i) of an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or
(ii) of an offence punishable on summary conviction where the value of what is stolen does not exceed five thousand dollars.
Section 322 of the Criminal Code states that “theft” occurs when one “takes, or… converts to his use or the use of another person, anything… to deprive, temporarily or absolutely, the owner of it…”
If the value of the property that is stolen is less than $5,000, the offence is informally referred to as “theft under,” and the Crown has the option of prosecuting the offence either by summary conviction or by indictment. Except where the offence has been committed by a prolific or habitual offender, the Crown prosecutes “theft under” by summary conviction, and the maximum sentence upon conviction is six months imprisonment or jail. Since shoplifting typically involves the theft of merchandise that can be concealed and carried out of a retail store without attracting undue attention, the value of the stolen property is less than $5,000 in the vast majority of cases and the prosecution of the shoplifter is by summary conviction.
If the Crown prosecutes the offence by indictment, the maximum sentence upon conviction is two years imprisonment or jail.
Where the value of the stolen property equals or exceeds $5,000, the offence is informally referred to as “theft over.” Theft over is prosecuted by indictment and the maximum sentence upon conviction is two years imprisonment or jail.
Retain an Experienced Criminal Defence Lawyer
It is in the best interests of anyone charged with shoplifting, especially someone who does not have a criminal record, to retain a criminal defence lawyer and ensure that the consequences of being charged are minimized.
This type of behaviour is often out of character for the person charged, and can be partially attributable to compelling personal problems which a skilled defence lawyer can present to the court to justify lesser sanctions if there is no viable defence and a guilty plea is appropriate.
If you need a criminal lawyer in Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, Surrey, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam or anywhere else in the Lower Mainland or the Fraser Valley to represent you on a shoplifting charge, please call us.