How to Defend Theft, Fraud and Shoplifting Charges?

Theft and/or fraud charges may be laid in a wide variety of circumstances. For this reason, each fraud and theft case will be unique. The best way to defend a case will depend largely on the facts of the case, the allegations being made, and the evidence collected by the police. To get a full understanding of the case, it is important to ensure you have received full disclosure prior to making any decisions on how to proceed with the case.

Due to the wide spectrum of actions that can result in a fraud or theft charge, the penalties for those convicted of fraud and/or theft may vary significantly from one offender to the next. For example, an individual charged with theft after stealing a low value item from a store may receive a discharge or be offered diversion. On the other hand, an individual who steals a larger sum from their employer may be charged with theft and sentenced to a period of incarceration.

Experienced legal counsel can assist you in reviewing your disclosure to give you an idea of your chances of having your charges dropped. Depending on the nature and severity of the allegations legal counsel may be able to negotiate a deal with the Crown to have the charges withdrawn.

If you have been charged with fraud, theft or shoplifting it is important to consult with legal counsel to determine the best course of action. This is especially true for individuals who wish to avoid a criminal record. Donich Law has experience defending individuals charged with shoplifting, theft over $5,000, theft under $5,000, fraud over $5,000 and fraud under $5,000. We also have experience defending those caught stealing from or defrauding their employer.

As discussed above, the best defence to any shoplifting, theft or fraud offence will be unique to the case and tailored to the evidence in the possession of the Crown. Due to the unique nature of every criminal offence, an equally unique defence strategy must be formulated.

Prior to making any big decisions in the case it is important to have received and reviewed full disclosure. The Crown must provide the defence with a copy of all evidence in the possession of the Crown. Once this information has been received and reviewed by the accused, a defence strategy can be developed.

Having a complete understanding of the Elements of the Criminal Offence, Your Rights and the Consequences associated with a Criminal Record is necessary before any legal decisions are made.

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Legal Information

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Best Defences to Theft and Shoplifting?
What are the Best Defences to Fraud?
Can I get my Shoplifting, Theft or Fraud Charges Dropped?

Additional Resources

Assaulting a Peace Officer
Sentencing Factors
Keeping Your Charges Private
Release from Police Custody
Theft From Your Employer
Resolving Shoplifting Charges
U.S. Waivers
Vulnerable Sector Screening
Consequences of a Criminal Record
Immigration Consequences
Elements of a Crime
Your Rights

What are the Best Defences to Theft and Shopliting?

As one of the fundamental principles of the criminal justice system, the Crown must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt to gain a conviction. The defence is not obligated to call any defence evidence and if the Crown cannot prove their case, the accused cannot be convicted.

Where the Crown does present evidence that tends to suggest that the accused is guilty, the defence may need to present some evidence to refute the Crown’s theory of the case.
Where the Crown has presented evidence that proves that the accused did in fact take an item from a store without paying for it, and is therefore guilty of shoplifting which constitutes theft, the accused may argue they accidentally walked out of the store without paying. For example, if a person shopping with a baby stroller hung an item of clothing on the stroller and walked out without noticing they had forgotten to pay, they may beat a theft charge.

In other cases, involving theft charges, an accused person may argue that they genuinely believed they had colour of right in the item they took. An individual has colour of right in an item when they have a legal proprietary interest in the item. For example, an individual whose name is on the deed of a house has a legal proprietary interest in the home and therefore colour of right. If an accused honestly believed an item belonged to them when they took it, they may advance the colour of right defence and beat a theft charge.

What are the Best Defences to Fraud?

As with theft and all other criminal offences, the best defence to a fraud allegation will depend on the specifics of the accusations and the evidence collected by the Crown. Once the Crown has provided the defence with full disclosure, a unique defence strategy can be created.

Where the Crown has presented evidence to suggest that the accused is guilty of the offence of fraud, the defence may present evidence to refute the Crown’s theory. To gain a conviction for fraud, the Crown must prove that the accused intentionally defrauded a person, entity, or the public. Where the accused lacked this specific intent, they cannot be convicted. If the defence can prove to the court that the accused lacked the necessary intent to be guilty of the offence, the court will find the accused not guilty.

Another defence commonly used in fraud cases is arguing that there was no real risk of the loss to the complainant or anyone else. To be convicted of a fraud offence, the Crown must prove that as a result of the accused’s actions, the complainant or some other individual or entity risked a loss of some kind. If, however, the defence can show that there was no risk of loss to anyone as a result of the accused’s actions, the accused cannot be convicted.

Can I get my Shoplifting, Theft, or Fraud Charge Dropped?

It is possible for an individual charged with theft, shoplifting or fraud to have their charges dropped and avoid a criminal conviction. Generally, there are a few ways to accomplish this goal.

In some case where the value of the items taken is very low, the Crown may agree to withdrawal the charges for lack of public interest in prosecuting the offence. In other situations, the Crown may offer the accused a diversion program. Diversion programs allow those charged with low level offences to participate in programming in exchange for their charges being dropped. For example, an individual charged with theft under $5,000 may be ordered to participate in an anti-theft program and pay restitution or make a charitable donation, after which the charges against them will be withdrawn at the request of the Crown.

Whether or not an individual will be offered a diversion program will depend on a number of factors. When an individual is charged with theft or fraud, the case file will be sent from the police to the Crown’s office for prosecution. Upon receipt, the Crown’s office will screen each file and provide the accused with a Screening Form as part of their disclosure. The Screening Form indicates whether the Crown is proceeding summarily or by indictment where an accused is charged with a hybrid offence. The form will also outline the Crown’s position on sentencing.

In cases where the allegations are serious or the value of the theft or fraud is high, the file may be screened for a jail sentence. If, on the other hand, the allegations are minor or the value of the items taken is low, the Crown may screen the file for diversion or a discharge. In some cases, the Crown will require additional information prior to agreeing to diversion or a discharge.

Once an individual is granted diversion, they will be asked to complete a diversion program. This may include writing a letter of apology, paying restitution, making a charitable donation, participating in counselling, or participating in programming as directed by the Court. For example, an individual offered diversion for a theft offence may be ordered to complete an anti-theft program.

Where the Crown does not withdrawal for lack of public interest in prosecuting the case, or where the Crown does not offer the accused diversion, experienced counsel may be able to negotiate with the assigned Crown to secure a withdrawal. This may be possible where the defence can raise enough reasonable doubt about the Crown’s case prior to trial. Defence counsel may also, in some cases, be able to present evidence prior to trial to show that the accused is not guilty of the offence as charged.

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