The offence of theft is outlined in section 322(1) of the Criminal Code.

A person commits theft when they take an item, with the intent to deprive the rightful owner of the item, and without a legal right to that item. The offence uses the term “colour of right” in the Criminal Code which basically means when a person has a legal right to property.

A person is also guilty of theft when they take an item with the intent to pledge it or deposit it as security, to part with it under a condition that may not be able to be fulfilled or to deal with it in such a manner that it cannot be restored to the condition it was in when it was taken.

Theft offences are categorized based on value. If an individual steals an item valued at less than $5,000, they will be charged with theft under $5,000. If they steal an item valued at more than $5,00,0 they will be charged with theft over $5,000.

Stealing from work is the same charge of theft but is aggravating because there is a breach of trust. This means the employer “gave the keys” to the employee who later betrayed their trust. Courts punish these offenders more severely, including with jail sentences, because of this relationship that was exploited.


Person A takes person B’s bike without permission. Person A has deprived person B of the ability to use their own bike.

Person A posts a photo of person B’s bike on Kijiji and offers to trade it to person C for a canoe.

Person A takes person B’s car and uses it as collateral to secure a loan. Person A knows they will not be able to pay back the loan and will have to forfeit the car.


R. v Gibson, [2020] ONCJ 389

In R. v Gibson, the offender was charged with theft after entering a Home Depot store and taking 2 tool batteries off the shelf. The offender then exited the store without attempting to pay for the items.

R. v. McLean, [2016] ONSC 3804

In R. v. McLean, the offender, an OPP officer, was charged with theft after allegedly stealing items from the OPP detachment he worked out of. The detachment was alerted to the officer’s theft after his ex-wife returned an Intoxiliyzer 5000c he had taken from the detachment.

Offence Specific Defences

Lack of Intent

To prove that an accused has committed theft, the Crown must prove that the accused intentionally took the item they are accused of stealing. If the accused had no intent to steal, they cannot be convicted of theft. For example, a parent walks out of the grocery store having forgot to pay for something after their child started crying. Courts will assess the credibility of this defence by reviewing circumstantial evidence.

Colour of Right

Colour of right refers to a person’s legal right to something. If a person owns a car, they have colour of right in the car. If an individual genuinely believes they have colour of right in an item, they lack the necessary intent to be convicted of theft. For example, an individual at a party picks up a coat that is the same as theirs and takes it. When they get home, they reach in the pocket for their keys and realise they have taken someone else’s coat. The person had a genuine belief the coat was there’s when they took it.

More Legal Information

Law Newbie™ is a free legal assistant developed by our criminal lawyers to help you understand the law.


In criminal cases, there are very strict rules governing what evidence can be used and how it can be used.

The rights enjoyed of all those within Canada are contained in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Criminal procedure is the process by which an accused person is arrested and brought through the justice system.

Sentencing refers to the punishment that is ordered when an individual is found guilty of a criminal offence.

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Offences in Canada are listed in the Criminal Code. They include crimes related to people, vehicles and weapons.

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