I want to talk a little bit about more serious thefts. So in other words not shoplifting or thefts of minor items, but when someone’s stealing something over the $5,000 or even under $5,000, but it’s a larger item.
Under the Criminal Code there’s two separate charges: there’s theft under $5,000 and there’s theft over $5,000 and obviously there are different penalties for each. For example, if the crown elects by indictment on a theft over $5,000 charge, the maximum penalty is 10 years in prison. So there can be serious jail terms depending on the quantity of the goods stolen whether that be money or stolen goods.
One of the things where somebody is going to face quite a serious penalty is if you are an employee and you steal from an employer; that is considered a breach of trust. Now depending on the dollar amount, if it’s a medium to large dollar amount, it’s quite difficult to avoid jail in that situation. You know, you are in a situation where obviously there is a breach of trust and the rule of thumb is that you are typically facing a jail term. We have been able to avoid jail in many cases with full restitution. However, it is difficult to avoid a jail terms when the amount stolen is in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.
So every case is different. We need to approach it number one is there a defence? Many of these cases are defendable. We’ve won many theft cases at our law firm. They can’t necessarily prove the identity of the thief and sometimes it’s a circumstantial case. You are trying to create exclusive opportunity. The crown has to establish that you are the person who stole the money or the good and they can’t necessarily do that in those circumstances. I’ll just give you an example; let’s say you had something stolen from your desk at night and you know the cleaning staff was there that night. Well how really are you going to prove that unless you can show exclusive opportunity? How good is your memory? It could have been stolen during the day. We’ve won cases like that on many occasions.
Some people are caught stealing red handed though. Now you are talking about trying to negotiate the best possible deal. Are there situations even on a serious theft where you can avoid a jail term. Let’s say somebody steals a snow blower out of your garage. Could that person avoid a criminal record and get a conditional discharge? Maybe they could depending on the situation although that’s starting to push it. Clearly, I talked about mere minor shoplifting in another video where we can often get that diverted, but the bottom line with theft it really depends on the amount stolen regarding whether you are going to jail. It depends on whether it is employee theft and then we look at other factors about your background and your ability to pay restitution is a big thing. I mean if you are able to pay restitution up front, that goes a long way to being sorry and remorseful and our judges are very impressed with that. They might lower your sentence. If you are not able to pay it upfront, they often will often order restitution as part of the sentence which is effectively, in addition to your jail term, that you have to reimburse the victim the amount that was stolen and it’s like a judgment. So the government could attach your salary for the rest of your life if it’s hundreds of thousands of dollars for example. So every case is different. That’s just an overview of how we approach theft under and over $5,000 cases that are more serious.