Theft Lawyer in Toronto

Theft is a serious offence in Canada that covers a broad spectrum of activities, from minor shoplifting incidents to complex fraud schemes. The legal repercussions of a theft conviction can be severe, impacting an individual’s personal and professional life.

Theft offences can be categorized into several types, including theft under $5,000 (commonly known as shoplifting) and theft over $5,000, which often involves business or employee theft. Each type of theft carries different penalties, but all can lead to a criminal record that affects future employment and travel opportunities.

Given the potential consequences, it is crucial to have experienced legal representation. Pyzer Criminal Lawyers in Toronto are dedicated to providing robust defence for individuals facing theft charges. Our team understands the complexities of theft law and is committed to protecting your rights and reputation throughout the legal process. 

Secure Your Defence with Experienced Theft Defence Lawyers

What is Theft?

Theft is a non-violent property crime under Canadian law that involves taking or converting another person’s property without their consent. To be charged with theft, the action must be intentional. This means that the person took the property purposefully, knowing they did not have permission from the owner.

Theft can be categorized based on the value of the stolen property: theft under $5,000 and theft over $5,000. For example, shoplifting, which typically involves stealing from a retail store, is a common form of theft under $5,000. Regardless of the amount involved, the key factor in any theft charge is the intent to steal. Without this intention, a person cannot be found guilty of theft.

What is Shoplifting?

Shoplifting, a common type of theft, involves taking goods or merchandise from a retail store without paying for them. Classified under the Criminal Code of Canada as theft, it requires the intent to deprive the store of its property permanently. The stolen items must belong to a store or business establishment, and their value must be under $5,000.

Although shoplifting may seem minor, it is taken seriously under Canadian law. However, prosecutors in Ontario generally view shoplifting as less severe compared to other criminal offences, placing it at the lower end of the criminal spectrum. For first-time offenders, there is often the possibility of avoiding a criminal conviction without going to trial.

Understanding the nature of theft and its legal implications is crucial. If faced with such charges, it's important to seek experienced legal representation to navigate the complexities of the legal system and protect your rights.

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Theft charges in Ontario

Different Types of Theft Charges

Theft charges in Canada encompass a wide range of offences, categorized primarily by the value of the stolen property. Theft under $5,000 and theft over $5,000 are the two main types, each carrying different legal implications and penalties. Understanding the distinctions between these charges is crucial, as it influences the legal strategy, court proceedings, and potential outcomes for the accused.

Theft Under $5000

Under Section 334(b) of the Criminal Code of Canada, theft under $5,000 is classified as a summary conviction offence. This includes acts like shoplifting, where an individual might steal an item from a store and hide it in their bag or jacket, or transport an item past the store's threshold without paying.

Theft under $5,000 is a hybrid offence, meaning the Crown prosecutor can choose to proceed either summarily or by indictment. This decision impacts the severity of the penalties upon conviction, with summary proceedings typically reserved for less serious cases and indictments for more serious ones. Cases of theft under $5,000 are always tried by a provincial court judge and are not heard in front of juries.

Theft Over $5000

Theft over $5,000, as defined by Section 334(a) of the Criminal Code of Canada, involves stealing property worth more than $5,000. Common examples include embezzlement, theft from an employer (breach of trust), and certain car thefts. This offence is usually treated as a straight indictable offence due to its serious nature, carrying penalties of up to ten years in prison.

Several factors influence how these allegations are pursued, such as the defendant’s criminal record, the specifics of the offence, and whether restitution has been attempted. The serious nature of theft over $5,000 means it is typically handled in a higher court, reflecting the severity of the crime and the potential consequences of a conviction.

Potential Defences Against Theft Charges

When facing theft charges in Toronto, it is crucial to understand the potential defences that can be employed to protect your rights and secure a favourable outcome. Experienced criminal defence lawyers can craft a strategy tailored to the specifics of each case, utilizing various defences based on the circumstances.

Lack of Evidence

The burden of proof lies with the prosecution, which must demonstrate guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. A defence based on lack of evidence involves challenging the sufficiency and reliability of the prosecution’s case. This can include questioning the authenticity of evidence, identifying inconsistencies in witness testimonies, or demonstrating gaps in the investigative process. By undermining the evidence presented, a lawyer can create reasonable doubt, which is often sufficient for an acquittal.

Lack of Intent

One of the primary defences against theft charges is demonstrating a lack of intent. Theft requires the intent to permanently deprive the owner of their property. If the accused can show that they did not intend to steal—such as believing they had permission to take the item or planning to return it—this defence can be effective. Examples might include misunderstandings or situations where the property was borrowed without clear communication.

Mistaken Identity

Mistaken identity is another common defence. Theft accusations can arise from misidentification by witnesses or errors in surveillance footage. An alibi, corroborated by credible evidence, can challenge the prosecution's case. By scrutinizing the reliability of witness statements and the accuracy of video evidence, a defence lawyer can cast doubt on the identification of the accused as the perpetrator.

Rightful Ownership

In some cases, the accused may have believed they had a rightful claim to the property in question. Presenting evidence that supports a claim of ownership or demonstrates that the accused had permission to take the property can be a strong defence. This approach relies on establishing a legitimate belief in the right to possess the property, negating the element of theft.

Procedural Defences

Procedural defences focus on the methods used by law enforcement during the investigation and arrest. Violations of the accused’s rights, such as unlawful search and seizure, failure to provide a proper warrant, or not informing the accused of their rights, can lead to the dismissal of charges. Highlighting these procedural errors can undermine the prosecution’s case and protect the accused’s rights.

Facing theft charges can be daunting, but understanding the potential defences available is the first step in building a strong case. Lack of intent, mistaken identity, rightful ownership, procedural defences, and lack of evidence are key strategies that can be employed.

Sentences and Penalties for Theft Charges in Toronto

The penalties for theft charges in Canada vary based on the value of the stolen property and the nature of the offence. Theft offences can be prosecuted as either summary conviction or indictable offences, with corresponding differences in potential penalties.

Theft Under $5,000: If convicted of theft under $5,000, the maximum penalty is up to two years in prison if treated as an indictable offence. As a summary conviction, the penalties are generally less severe.

Theft Over $5,000: Theft over $5,000 is typically treated as an indictable offence, carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. The severity of the punishment reflects the seriousness of the offence.

Special Cases: Certain types of theft, such as motor vehicle theft and credit card theft, have specific penalties that reflect the nature and frequency of the crime.

  • Motor Vehicle Theft (s. 333(1)): The penalties for motor vehicle theft depend on the prosecution method. If treated as an indictable offence, the maximum sentence is 10 years in prison. As a summary conviction, the maximum penalty is two years less a day. For repeat offenders charged by indictment, there is a minimum sentence of six months imprisonment.
  • Credit Card Theft (s. 342(1)): Theft, forgery, or misuse of a credit card is always considered an indictable offence, with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Lesser penalties may apply if prosecuted summarily.

Understanding these penalties underscores the importance of seeking experienced legal representation to navigate the complexities of theft charges and mitigate potential consequences.

Seek Counsel from an Experienced Criminal Defence Lawyer

Facing theft charges can be an overwhelming experience, but understanding the potential defences and penalties is the first step towards navigating the legal process. Pyzer Criminal Lawyers are dedicated to providing robust defence strategies tailored to each client's unique situation. 

With extensive experience in handling a wide range of theft offences, from shoplifting to complex fraud cases, our team is committed to protecting your rights and achieving the most suitable outcome. If you or a loved one are facing theft charges, contact Pyzer Criminal Lawyers for a free consultation. Let our experience guide you through this challenging time and ensure your defence is in capable hands.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between robbery and theft?

Robbery is a distinct and more serious offence than theft because it involves the use of violence or the threat of violence to obtain stolen items. For a robbery charge to be made, this act or threat must occur before the theft. If a weapon is used to intimidate the victim, the charge escalates to armed robbery. While both robbery and theft require the intent to steal, the addition of violence makes robbery a more severe charge compared to theft, particularly theft under $5,000.

What must the crown prove for a theft conviction?

To secure a conviction for theft, the Crown prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you intentionally took or converted property that did not belong to you, without the owner's consent. This includes demonstrating that you moved or attempted to move the item and that you did so without permission. For instance, in a shoplifting case, the Crown must show that you deliberately took an item from a store without paying, establishing both intent and lack of consent.

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