Theft Under $5000& Theft Over $5000

Theft Under $5000 is one of the most commonly charged criminal offences in British Columbia.  The charge is usually laid in relation to shoplifting or retail theft but private non-retail instances of Theft Under $5000 are not uncommon.  While the likelihood of going to jail for a Theft Under $5000 charge is small, the possibility of custody is still technically possible, especially in situations where someone had been previously charged or in a “Breach of Trust” situation where the theft involved an employee at his or her job.  More serious consequences involving immigration, travel, and criminal records are possible, although each case is different and should be discussed with your lawyer.

What are some recent Theft Under $5000 cases you’ve defended?

R. v. V.E. [2012] - Client employed at a food processing and sales facility where she allegedly stole thousands of dollars in inventory.  Client was charged with multiple counts of breach of trust and Theft Under $5000  – CHARGES WITHDRAWN AND NO CRIMINAL RECORD

R. v. P.R. [2010] – Client misses court date on Theft Under $5000 charge – bench warrant for arrest issued – client comes into my office six months after warrant – successfully argue to rescind bench warrant without my client having to attend court or go into custody on the Fail to Appear charge – Theft charge subsequently withdrawn for charitable donation– CHARGES WITHDRAWN and NO CRIMINAL RECORD

R. v. L.A. [2010] – Client charged with Drug Possession, Mischief relating to damage to property, and Theft Under $5000 stemming from alcohol induced outburst with several eyewitnesses – No prior criminal history – CHARGES WITHDRAWN AND NO CRIMINAL RECORD

R. v. T.P. [2011] - While employed as a cashier at a major retailer, university student Client allegedly participated in scheme where co-accused would pretend to purchase items or gift cards that Client would not scan or cash in. Client was charged with Breach of Trust related Fraud Under $5000 and Theft Under $5000. Following discussions with the prosecutor, client completed extensive diversion program and all charges were eventually dropped. CHARGES WITHDRAWN - NO CRIMINAL RECORD

R. v. M.K. [2011] - While employed as an assistant manager at a major retail store, Client was accused of Breach of Trust Fraud following a police investigation into missing merchandise and the discounted sale of store gift cards on the internet.  The joint police and store investigation resulted in charges of Fraud Under $5000 and Theft Under $5000 being laid against the Client, who upon being charged made several admissions to the police.  Following discussions with the prosecutor, a joint submission for a conditional discharge was accepted by the court.  CONDITIONAL DISCHARGE - NO JAIL - NO CRIMINAL RECORD

What is the maximum possible penalty for Theft Under $5000 in British Columbia?

Under the Criminal Code of Canada, everyone who commits Theft Under $5000:

  • (b) is guilty (i) of an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or (ii) of an offence punishable on summary conviction, where the value of what is stolen does not exceed five thousand dollars.

I received a letter from a lawyer for The Bay, Winners, Sears, Target, Canadian Tire or a similar type store telling me to pay money or they may sue me.  What do I do?

These types of letters are also called civil demand notices and are sent out by major retailers when an individual is charged with theft in one of their stores.  As each letter and each situation is unique, BC criminal lawyer Alex Ejsmont would be able to advise you on the right course of action in the event you receive one of these letters – including addressing the following questions:

  • What can happen if you don’t pay?
  • If you choose to go to trial could payment be used against you as evidence?
  • What relationship do one of these letters have to your criminal case?
  • Can the charges get dropped if you pay the store back some money?
  • Why are you being asked to pay if all the merchandise was recovered?

The property or money was returned – why was I still charged?

Returning property that was obtained through theft will, in most situations, not result in charges being dropped.  In certain situations, such as when you are being investigated, acknowledging your part in criminal activity can have very serious consequences.  Also, clients are commonly surprised to discover that they still end up being charged in situations where they accept responsibility early on even if there is no actual loss to the store.  Our law office prides itself on helping people dealing with Theft Under $5000 charges and we make ourselves available seven days a week for clients with charges in Vancouver, Richmond, Surrey, Chilliwack, Abbotsford and throughout British Columbia.

Is it possible to get Theft Under $5000 charges dropped?

For a first-offence, it is usually possible for your lawyer to approach a prosecutor to ask about the possibility of some form of alternative measures.  These programs, also called “Diversion Programs” are designed to have your case handled outside of the justice system, usually by some form of community service, charitable donation, or theft awareness workshop.  The structure of a Diversion program differs among courthouses, but the ultimate goal is the same: getting your charges dropped.

However, having been previously charged with similar offences may complicate your case by removing your eligibility for any possible diversion programs.  A prior conviction for a theft offence may be used against you during sentencing, and it is possible that a more significant penalty would be proposed by the Crown prosecutor.