Theft Lawyers in Edmonton
Some common examples of these sorts of offences include:
Theft over $5000: If the value of the property taken is over $5000, a person will be charged with this offence. The maximum sentence a person can receive if they are convicted of this offence is 10 years imprisonment.
Theft: It is an offence to take or remove someone’s property, with the intent to deprive the owner of that property. Under the Criminal Code, there are two different offences depending on the value of the property.
Theft under $5000: If the value of the property taken is under $5000, a person will be charged with this offence. This offence is commonly charged when someone is accused of “shoplifting” (i.e. taking something from a store without first paying for it). The maximum sentence a person can receive if they are convicted of this offence is 2 years imprisonment.
Motor vehicle theft: Parliament has created a specific offence of theft of a motor vehicle, with mandatory minimum punishments in some cases. There is also a specific criminal offence of taking another person’s motor vehicle and using it without their consent.
Electricity or telecommunication theft: There are specific criminal offences that make it against the law to dishonestly use electricity (e.g. bypass a utility company’s electricity meter) or telecommunication services (e.g. stealing cable service from the cable company).
At its most basic, theft involves fraudulently taking or removing someone else’s property, with the intent to deprive the other person of that property, permanently or even temporarily.
WHAT IS CONSIDERED “THEFT” IN CANADA?
The crime of theft includes everything from shoplifting makeup from a drug store, all the way up to multi-million dollar embezzlement schemes.
Simply taking someone else’s property without their permission is not enough to automatically make you guilty of theft. You also must have moved or taken the property “fraudulently,” or in other words, with dishonest intent.
This means that you must either have known that you were taking property that did not belong to you, have been “reckless” or “willfully blind” about whether you were taking property that did not belong to you.
WHAT IF I TAKE SOMEONE ELSE’S PROPERTY BY ACCIDENT?
For example, if you get confused and accidentally take someone else’s jacket from the coat check at a restaurant, this isn’t automatically a theft. Carelessness or negligence is not enough to convict you of theft. But if you “see a risk” that the jacket isn’t yours and take it anyway, this could be enough for you to be found guilty.
“Colour of right” is also a defence to the crime of theft. This defence may apply if you honestly, but mistakenly, believed that you had a legal right to take someone else’s property.
WHAT ARE THE POTENTIAL CONSEQUENCES FOR THEFT CHARGES?
Financial and property offences, such as theft, involve a wide variety of different allegations and circumstances. As a result, the possible punishments are also wide-ranging.
CAN I GO TO JAIL FOR THEFT IN CANADA?
Sentences for theft in Canada can range from probation, to fines, to “house arrest,” all the way to lengthy jail sentences.
If you are charged with theft or another property or financial crime, it is important to talk to a lawyer so you understand what you are facing, as well as your options. A knowledgeable lawyer can tell you what types of sentences people usually receive for different kinds of offences, and explain how you may be able to avoid a conviction or criminal record.
For example, if you are a first-time offender with no criminal record, and if you are charged with a minor theft (such as simple shoplifting), the prosecutor might agree to “divert” the offence outside of the court system through an “alternative measures program”. This could potentially allow you to avoid a criminal record altogether.
At the other end of the scale, sophisticated thefts that involve millions of dollars often result in sentences of several years in prison.
Besides the sentence imposed by a judge, there are other serious consequences of being found guilty:
- A criminal record can have employment consequences. Many jobs now require a criminal record check, and a conviction for an “offence of dishonesty” can make it very difficult to get some jobs.
- A criminal record can also interfere with your ability to travel. Certain countries, such as the United States, may turn you away if you have been found guilty of one of these offences.
- Courts can order that an offender pay restitution to the victim (i.e., pay back the amount that was stolen, or the value of the property that was taken). These restitution orders may follow you for the rest of your life, even if you later declare bankruptcy.
- Members of professional associations, such as medical professionals, teachers, accountants, or real estate agents, can have their professional designations suspended or revoked as a result of a criminal conviction. A conviction can also interfere with career aspirations by making it harder to join one of these professions in the future.
- It may be difficult to get a pardon (now called a “criminal record suspension”) than in the past, as it can now take ten years (or longer) before a person can apply to have their criminal record expunged.
- If you are not a Canadian citizen, a conviction for one of these offences could have serious immigration consequences. A conviction could make it harder to become a citizen or permanent resident, or could even cause you to be deported from Canada.
- The media often takes an interest in certain theft cases, and a conviction may be reported in the news.
ARE THERE DIFFERENT PUNISHMENTS FOR THEFTS INVOLVING A PERSON’S EMPLOYER?
The Alberta courts take thefts from employers very seriously. When an employee steals from an employer, the law considers this a “breach of trust.” This is an aggravating factor when a person is sentenced. In other words, this means a judge will treat the offence much more seriously.
WILL I GO TO JAIL FOR STEALING FROM MY EMPLOYER?
The Alberta Court of Appeal has told lower courts that, unless there are exceptional circumstances, a person should go to jail for stealing from their employer.
There are sometimes ways to avoid jail where the offence does not involve much money, or where there are particularly unusual circumstances surrounding the offence. It is safe to say, however, that it is very common for people convicted of theft from an employer to go to jail.
Other thefts that are also considered a “breach of trust” are treated equally seriously – for example, stealing from a club, charity, or society if you are an officer of the organization, or stealing from someone who is vulnerable and who you take care of, such as an elderly parent.
You should consult with a lawyer right away if you are facing an allegation that you stole money from an employer or defrauded an employer. These are often among the most serious of thefts and frauds, and it is essential that you receive legal advice.
THE POLICE WANT TO SPEAK WITH ME, SHOULD I TALK TO A LAWYER FIRST?
It is not unusual for a police officer to contact someone they suspect might be involved in a crime. The officer might not start the conversation by saying “you’re a suspect, I think you did it, I’m probably going to arrest you, and I’m going to try to make you confess” – even if this is all true. Instead, the first phone call might be much less threatening. An officer could simply say that they want to “sort things out” or “get your side of the story.” Or the officer might say he needs to speak with you to “just to close the file.”
Likewise, if your employer has suspicions about whether you have been stealing from the company, someone from your employer may try to speak with you. A “loss prevention officer” or “corporate security officer” might visit you and ask you to speak with them, or your manager might call you into their office and start asking you questions. These situations can be even more dangerous, because everything you say can be used against you in court, but you may not have as many rights as if the police were asking the questions.
No matter what the circumstances, it is virtually always a good idea to talk to a lawyer before you talk to anyone about these sorts of allegations. Quite often, it is difficult for a prosecutor to prove that someone is guilty of theft, unless they admit things that help “plug the holes” in the case. Even if you do not admit you are guilty, and even if you honestly try to explain why you are innocent, you can accidentally tell investigators things that make it easier to prove your guilt.
Many people worry that consulting with a lawyer will “make them look guilty,” but it is far more important that you get good advice about your situation than worrying about how you “might look.” The potential consequences are too significant for you to take chances when speaking with the police. You have the right to talk to a lawyer, and both innocent and guilty people need legal advice. The fact that you consulted with a lawyer cannot be used to prove your guilt in court.
For more detailed information about why you should call a lawyer, please read our page on “The police want to speak with me…”
HOW CAN A LAWYER HELP ME?
A lawyer can help you at every stage in the criminal process:
- If you are under investigation, a lawyer can advise you about how to avoid doing things that make it more likely you will be charged, or things that might make it harder to defend the case against you. A proactive approach can often have significant benefits in defending your case.
- If you have already been charged with a crime, a lawyer can help you understand the evidence against you, review the prosecutor’s case, discuss your side of the story, and help you understand how you might be able to fight the charges.
- A lawyer can usually appear in court on your behalf for preliminary appearances, preventing you from missing work or school unnecessarily.
- If you decide to plead guilty, a lawyer can help negotiate with the prosecutor, gather information that helps present you in the best light, explain the circumstances of the incident to the judge, and help get the best possible sentence.
- If you decide to plead not guilty and have a trial, a lawyer can help organize and present your defence, and identify weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case that could help convince a judge or jury that you are not guilty. A lawyer also understands the rules of evidence and other procedural rules, which can often be very complicated – and important – in financial or property trials.
- If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of your case, a lawyer can advise you about whether you might have grounds for an appeal.
- After a case is resolved, a lawyer can advise you about how you may be able to have your fingerprints destroyed, and how you might avoid having record of the allegations appear in certain kinds of background checks.
If you are charged with a crime, it is essential that you find a lawyer who has experience defending people charged with theft offences specifically, so they can give you good advice that’s based on experience and expertise.
The lawyers at Pringle Law have extensive experience advising and representing people facing allegations of theft, fraud, “white collar” offences, property crime, commercial crime, and financial crime. This is one of our largest areas of practice, and all of our lawyers regularly defend these kinds of cases.
We have defended people charged with everything from the most minor shoplifting cases, to sophisticated identity theft allegations. Our lawyers pride ourselves on our knowledge of the law and our practical, client-focused advice.
Please contact us to discuss your case. We assist clients throughout Western Canada and would be happy to speak with you, with no obligation and free of charge, to help you understand your situation.