How to Resolve Shoplifting Charges?

Criminal charges come to a conclusion in many different ways. Each case has its own special factors and circumstances that produce a specific result tailored to the charged individual. There are many factors that are considered when shoplifting charges are being resolved, including:

  • Amount of product shoplifted;
  • Personal situation of the accused;
  • Context of the shoplifting.

Resolution is often significantly impacted by negotiations that take place between defence counsel and the Crown. Defence counsel can help you negotiate the best possible result to your shoplifting charges.

There are a number of possible resolutions for shoplifting charges. Some resolutions include:


If you are found guilty of theft, it is possible for a jail term to be imposed. Jail is usually only ordered in more serious cases of theft. For example, where the theft is over $5,000 or where the Crown elects to proceed by indictment. Jail is generally unlikely for a first offence, but can be possible with numerous charges or a prior record.

The Criminal Code states at Section 334 that if convicted of theft over $5,000 you may be sentenced to a jail term of up to ten years. Comparatively, if convicted of theft under $5,000 may be sentenced to a jail term of up to two years if the Crown proceeds by indictment.

Conditional Sentence

When a court is looking at sentencing you to a term of imprisonment of less than two years, it is possible for you to be ordered to serve that sentence in the community instead of in an institution. You would be subject to various statutory conditions as well as any other conditions the court finds to be fit and necessary.

There are a number of conditions that must be met before the court can impose a conditional sentence:

  • Offence must have no minimum term of imprisonment attached to it;
  • Court must impose a jail sentence of less than two years:
  • The safety of the community cannot be endangered by the sentence being served in the community;
  • Conditional sentence must be consistent with the fundamental purpose and principles of sentencing.


Probation is a common sentence. It can be imposed in a number of ways, including on its own, or in combination with a term of imprisonment or a fine (but not both).

Probation is an order made with a list of mandatory and discretionary conditions that you must follow. Failure to comply with probation conditions may lead to further criminal proceedings against you as it is a separate criminal offence to breach an order of probation.

The following is a list of ways that probation can be imposed on an offender:

  • Suspended Sentence – if the offence charged has no minimum sentence the judge may suspend passing sentence and place an accused on probation.
  • As part of a Conditional Discharge.
  • Imprisonment – you may be ordered to comply with probation after release from jail (if you are in jail for less than two years).
  • Intermittent Sentence – when you are not serving your sentence in custody, you must be placed on probation.
  • In addition to a Fine.


A fine imposes a monetary burden to punish an offender. All fines have to be paid to the state. Fines can be ordered as a sentence or on their own or in addition to another sentence.

For a court to impose a fine they must find there is an ability to pay.


Section 730(1) of the Criminal Code allows a discharge to be ordered by a court once the elements of an offence have been made out and the court finds the offender guilty. A discharge is ordered instead of a formal conviction being entered on the record.

A court can order a discharge where:

  • There is no minimum sentence;
  • The maximum penalty is less than 14 years;
  • It is in the best interests of the offender:
  • It is not contrary to the public interest.

A discharge cannot be ordered if the offender is a corporation.

When deciding whether to award a discharge, the court must balance the interests of the offender and the interests of the public.

There are two kinds of discharges:

  1. Conditional: with a conditional discharge you are placed on probation and must comply with conditions the court imposes. If you commit a further offence while under a conditional discharge, the court is allowed to revoke your discharge, convict you of the original offence and impose another sentence.
  1. Absolute: with an absolute discharge you are released from the court absolutely on the day of discharge. You will not be supervised further.


With less serious charges of theft, it is possible, to have the charge(s) withdrawn entirely pursuant to s.717 of the Criminal Code. If approved by the Crown and successfully completed, criminal charges can be withdrawn, resulting in no criminal record. This may, however, require the offender to make an admission or take responsibility.

Often negotiations with the Crown may need to take place before s.717 resolution is offered as a potential alternative. The circumstances of each offender and offence differ greatly and impact the likelihood of the applicable outcome.

It is important to remember that there is no guaranteed resolution for shoplifting charges. Sentencing is an individual process and the circumstances surrounding the offence and offender guide how your matter is resolved. Defence counsel can help you with this early on in the criminal process and will help you advocate for the best possible outcome for yourself.

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