Everyone knows that theft is a serious crime, but most of us also have a sense that stealing a $100 jacket and systematically stealing valuable cars are not really the same thing. So where is the cut off? When does a minor act of theft become a major one?

According to Canadian law, theft over $5000 and theft under $5000 are considered to be the two distinct categories of theft, and are treated with differing degrees of severity. Though the term is frequently used, “shoplifting” is not itself a legal category, and is usually used as shorthand for theft under $5000 (though if you take more than $5000 worth of merchandise from a shop, you will still be charged with theft over $5000).

Theft, both theft over $5000 and theft under $5000, are also distinct from robbery, which implies the use of force and is treated more seriously by the court system, and fraud, which involves deception.

Though the penalties for theft under $5000 and theft over $5000 are both impacted by a person’s criminal record or prior convictions, for the purposes of this blog, we’ll be dealing with how the Canadian legal system treats first-time offenders.

What Type of Offence is Theft Over $5000?

Theft over $5000 in the Criminal Code is considered an indictable offence. This is the most serious category of offences in Canadian law, and as such theft over $5000 is considered an extremely serious crime.

So, what happens when you get charged with theft over $5000? You will likely be arrested immediately, and within twenty-four hours you will need to have a bail hearing. This will determine whether or not you will be able to go free while awaiting your trial.

Given the seriousness of the crime, it is unlikely that those charged with theft over $5000 will receive bail, though it is possible in certain circumstances — which is why it is important to have a Toronto theft lawyer with you at your bail hearing.

In many cases of theft over $5000 in Canada, the court may be considering multiple charges — for example, of fraud or robbery as well. This can complicate the defence strategy. And as theft over $5000 is an indictable offence, you may have the option of a trial by jury. This can be useful in some cases, but it is the kind of question best dealt with in consultation with your legal counsel.

When it comes to sentencing for theft over $5000, the judge has a reasonable amount of discretion. The maximum penalty is ten years in prison, but there are a number of factors impacting theft charges in Ontario and things like age will likely play into sentencing. A juvenile first offender with no prior criminal record, for example, will likely not be given as severe a sentence as an older offender with a history of impaired driving or assault.

This is why a strong legal defence is important: even if you are not fully exonerated, the charges may be reduced, or the judge may decide to only move forward with certain charges. This can have a significant impact on your sentencing, potentially reducing the amount of time you are required to serve.

If you are facing charges of theft over $5000, Jeff Reisman Law can help you come up with an effective legal strategy and help you determine how to proceed with the case.

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What Type of Offence is Theft Under 5000?

Unlike theft over $5000, theft under $5000 is a hybrid offence, which means that when prosecuting theft under $5000 the Criminal Code allows judges to decide whether to treat it as indictable or summary.

  • Indictable Offence: If the judge treats theft under $5000 as an indictable offence, you will undergo a process similar to the one for theft over $5000, and you may have an option for trial by jury.
  • Summary Offence: Theft under $5000 as a summary offence is essentially a misdemeanour, frequently used in cases of petty theft where the offender is a minor with no prior criminal record.

Theft under $5000 in Canada is a frequent offence, and in the Greater Toronto Area the most common cases of theft under $5000 brought to court include:

  • Shoplifting
  • Theft from an employer
  • Stealing packages from porches
  • Theft of gas
  • Theft from locker rooms

But what happens when you get charged with theft under $5000? Because theft under $5000 is considered a less serious crime, it will be easier to secure bail. But it is not guaranteed, which is why you should get in touch with Toronto criminal lawyers to represent you at your bail hearing.

At your first trial date, the court will decide which way they will prosecute the charge, and you will be given a chance to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. Given that theft under $5000 in Canada can carry a prison sentence in addition to potentially barring you from international travel, it is often wise to fight the charges.

Sentencing for theft under $5000 is significantly more lenient, with the maximum penalty being two years in prison. If you have received a summary conviction for theft under $5000, the judge has the choice of handing down an absolute or conditional discharge, which means you will not have a criminal record.

Whether you’ve been charged with theft over $5000 or theft under $5000, you will need an experienced criminal lawyer to help you navigate the legal system and develop a strategy of defence.

While theft over $5000 in Canada is a harder charge to fight than theft under $5000 in Canada, it is still possible to prove your innocence or have the charges reduced, so call Jeff Reisman Law today to get expert legal defence and an attorney who will work tirelessly on your behalf to help you reach a verdict of not guilty.