In situations where money or property has been taken, the terms “theft”, “burglary”, and “robbery” are often used interchangeably. However, there are differences between them which make each its own offence. What an accused is charged with describes how the crime was committed, the type of crime, and the legal consequences. For example, being charged with burglary is considered to be more serious than theft, and thus will likely result in a more serious penalty.
In brief, a robbery occurs when someone steals from a person either by using force or a threat of force. Someone is guilty of theft when they steal property without using force. Burglary means to illegally enter a property in order to steal other property from it.
The difference between each of these charges is not always easy to spot. Moreover, how each of these charges is defended in court will vary. That is why it is important to contact an experienced criminal defence lawyer if you have been charged with either theft, burglary, or robbery. They will be able to assist you in understanding your charges and will be able to advise you on all your options.
What Is Theft?
In Canada, theft is defined under section 322(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada. It reads as follows,
Everyone commits theft who fraudulently and without colour of right takes, or fraudulently and without colour of right converts to his use or to the use of another person, anything, whether animate or inanimate, with intent
(a) to deprive, temporarily or absolutely, the owner of it, or a person who has a special property or interest in it, of the thing or of his property or interest in it;
(b) to pledge it or deposit it as security;
(c) to part with it under a condition with respect to its return that the person who parts with it may be unable to perform; or
(d) to deal with it in such a manner that it cannot be restored in the condition in which it was at the time it was taken or converted.
More simply put, someone is guilty of theft as soon as they move or cause the movement of property that is not theirs, with the intent of stealing it. In order to successfully convict someone of theft, a Crown prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an accused formed the intention to steal. In situations of theft, the property can be considered stolen even without the accused and victim ever meeting. A simple example of theft would be shoplifting a shirt from a clothing store. Additionally, the stolen property need not be a physical object, but the stolen goods must be tangible. This means stealing money or telecommunication services can be considered theft.
Section 334 of the Criminal Code of Canada provides that the offence of theft is separated into two separate charges:
Theft Under $5000
When the value of property stolen is below $5000 the charge is referred to as “theft under $5000.” Theft under $5000 is considered to be a “hybrid” offence and this means that the Crown prosecutor has the choice of whether they want to proceed summarily or on indictment. Additionally, theft under $5000 cases are always tried by a provincial court judge; they are not heard in front of juries.
Whether the Crown should choose to proceed summarily or by indictment will primarily impact the penalties given upon conviction. Generally speaking, a Crown prosecutor will proceed summarily in less serious situations and by indictment in more serious situations.
Theft Over $5000
In situations where the value of the property stolen exceeds $5000, the charge is referred to as “theft over $5000.” Unlike theft under $5000, theft over $5000 is considered to be a straight indictable offence (however, there are a few limited situations in which proceeding summarily will be an option). This will impact what court will hear the case.
Theft over $5000 is usually considered a straight indictable offence because situations of theft over $5000 are considered to be much more serious than theft under $5000. Consequently, the penalties for a successful conviction of theft over $5000 are much more severe.
What Is Robbery?
The definition of robbery can be found under section 343 of the Criminal Code.
Every one commits robbery who
(a) steals, and for the purpose of extorting whatever is stolen or to prevent or overcome resistance to the stealing, uses violence or threats of violence to a person or property;
(b) steals from any person and, at the time he steals or immediately before or immediately thereafter, wounds, beats, strikes or uses any personal violence to that person;
(c) assaults any person with the intent to steal from him; or
(d) steals from any person while armed with an offensive weapon or imitation thereof.
Essentially, everyone is guilty of robbery who, while stealing property, uses intimidation, force, or coercion to obtain the property. Additionally, an individual who commits an assault with the intent of stealing will also be found guilty of robbery.
What is Burglary?
In Canada, the term “burglary” is outdated and no longer used. Instead, section 348 of the Criminal Code refers to break-and-enter offences.
Every one who
(a) breaks and enters a place with intent to commit an indictable offence therein,
(b) breaks and enters a place and commits an indictable offence therein, or
(c) breaks out of a place after
(i) committing an indictable offence therein, or
(ii) entering the place with intent to commit an indictable offence therein, is guilty
(d) if the offence is committed in relation to a dwelling-house, of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for life, and
(e) if the offence is committed in relation to a place other than a dwelling-house, of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years or of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
Ultimately, the offences contained within this section look to criminalize breaking and entering into a place with the intention of stealing property. If the place that a person is accused of breaking into is a home then that may be considered an aggravating factor in their sentencing.
Difference Between Theft, Robbery and Burglary
The differences between theft, robbery, and burglary may appear to be minor but they have big implications when it comes to conviction and sentencing. If you are facing any of these charges it is important that you speak with a criminal defence lawyer. They will be able to help you understand the nature of your charges and may be able to assist you in having those charges reduced or even dropped altogether.
Robbery vs. Theft
The primary difference between robbery and theft is that robbery involves an element of violence. In both situations to be found guilty, an accused must have the intention to steal property, but with robbery, they will have done so through the use of violence, threats, or with a weapon. Due to this, theft is generally considered to be a less serious charge; particularly when it is theft under $5000.
Burglary vs. Robbery
It is important to remember that the distinction between burglary and robbery is that burglary covers offences involving breaking and entering into a place with the intention of stealing. Meanwhile, robbery criminalizes violent actions used with the intention of stealing. It is possible to be charged with both burglary and robbery in the same situation.
Theft vs. Burglary
It is also possible to be charged with theft and burglary in the same situation. Since burglary refers to offences involving breaking and entering for the purpose of stealing and theft is the act of intending to take property not belonging to you.
What Are The Penalties for These Crimes?
The Criminal Code of Canada does not provide many minimum sentences in situations of theft, robbery, or a break and entering offence; however, it does provide maximum sentences. This allows the court to have a lot of discretion in the sentence they give out.
Consequently, sentences for these charges can be quite severe and have major ramifications in an individual’s personal life. It is important to note that a criminal conviction will almost always result in a criminal record. An experienced criminal defence lawyer will be able to assist in securing the lowest possible sentence or have the charges reduced or even dropped entirely.
If an individual is found guilty of theft how the Crown chooses to proceed will impact the available maximum sentence. Generally, the Crown will proceed summarily in less serious situations and on indictment in more serious situations.
Theft Under $5000:
· Indictment: Up to two years less a day imprisonment
· Summary: Up to 2 years less a day imprisonment
Theft Over $5000:
· Indictment: Maximum 10 years imprisonment
· Summary: Up to 2 years less a day imprisonment
· Maximum of imprisonment for life
· If a firearm was used, or occurred in the context of a criminal organization; a minimum of five years imprisonment
· Breaking and entering into a non-dwelling: Maximum 10 years imprisonment
· Breaking and entering into a dwelling: Maximum of imprisonment for life
Contact an Experienced Criminal Lawyer Today
If you or someone you care about has been charged with either theft, robbery, or a break and entering offence, it is important that you contact a criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible.
These charges can be difficult to distinguish from one another and upon conviction can result in very serious penalties. Having these charges on your criminal record has the ability to impact things in your life like your employment and personal relationships.
The team at Pyzer Criminal Lawyers is very experienced in handling these types of charges. They will work fiercely to have these charges dealt with. For a free case evaluation call 416-658-1818 or visit https://www.torontodefencelawyers.com/