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Shoplifting Charges: Can You Be Charged with Theft After Leaving a Store?

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The notion is that a person enters a store, steals a few items, and exits the store unpunished. Are you safe from shoplifting charges after leaving a store? 

In the quickest answer, no. Under Section 334(b) of the Criminal Code of Canada, you can be fined up to $2,000.00 if you are caught shoplifting. Just because you are not caught at the door, you can still be charged with shoplifting. Furthermore, there are many common punishments besides that, such as court fees and jail time, injuring your career and reputation, and being restricted from traveling.

Read on to discover how and more about Canada's laws regarding shoplifting and theft.

What Exactly Is Shoplifting?

The term shoplifting is a term commonly used to describe theft under $5,000.00. In this context, it means taking merchandise out of a retail store without paying that values under $5000.00. (There is also the charge of Theft over $5000.00). 

Theft is defined in the Canadian Criminal Code as the act of taking someone else's property with the intent of temporarily or permanently removing it from its rightful owner. 

Theft under $5,000 may be punished with a fine of up to $2,000.00 or imprisonment for up to six months, or both. It is important to note that these are maximum penalties, and punishments for first-time offenders are likely to be much less severe.

Is Shoplifting A Crime Or A Violation?

Shoplifting is a criminal offence, contrary to popular belief. It does not constitute a violation. Shoplifters will be charged criminally for theft, regardless of the value of the item they take. You will have charges on your criminal record, and you may face future difficulties as a result. A background check will reveal this information.

There is a record of the charge in the CPIC database of the local police, and in some cases, it is also stored permanently in the CBP and FBI database of US Customs and Border Protection. If you have been charged with shoplifting, it can appear on certain types of employment checks, even if you have been acquitted or charges were withdrawn. Depending on your status in Canada as well there may be possible immigration consequences you may face. 

In the event that the people, store, or service you are stealing from file charges against you, you will be charged and arrested, requiring the taking of your fingerprints. Having one's fingerprints taken and being arrested are now permanent records that are logged into a criminal database. 

In the event you are convicted after a trial, you will have an entry on your criminal record indicating that you have been convicted. This entry will be visible to anyone conducting a background check.

Shoplifters Are Caught In What Ways?

Security agents in plain clothes or uniforms usually catch shoplifters in retail stores. People are generally apprehended after leaving the store and taken to a security office after being apprehended.

Many security agents are friendly and can easily solicit a person's name, address, phone number, and date of birth from them. Additionally, they might promise that they will not call the police if they cooperate with them. Some may elicit information and/or confessions from the alleged suspect using intimidation or threats.

You can find CCTV cameras at every corner of every retail store. You may be caught immediately if you are noticed behaving suspiciously by a member of the staff. However, you should not feel relieved if you are lucky enough to get away from the shop without being caught. It is still possible to be caught.

CCTV footage is often checked by the security department twice daily or weekly. In other words, if they were able to locate your face, they would call the police, who would then be able to locate you.

Is a shoplifter legally entitled to certain rights?

You have the right to remain silent regardless of what someone asks you, whether it be the police or a shop security guard. If the police ask for any personal information from you, you will need to provide it to them. You may also want to get a lawyer involved if you receive a phone call from management from a store or department. A lawyer may be able to discuss the matter with the management and attempt to reach a settlement without resorting to police being involved and charges being laid. Or, if charges are planning to be laid against you regardless -getting a lawyer involved at this early stage is always a wise choice to protect you and to make sure you do not make any statements or say anything incriminating. 

Consequences Long Term

The charge and conviction associated with shoplifting, unless you were a minor at the time, will remain on your criminal record. The charge, arrest and fingerprinting of a suspect, even if they were not convicted of shoplifting, will still be public record.

You would still need to answer "yes" to the question if you were asked if you have ever been arrested or charged with a crime for certain activities, such as travel or work. Also, you would also have to acknowledge that you were convicted of shoplifting if the charge resulted in a conviction.

You may be barred from being selected for certain jobs if you have charges or convictions on your record. Additionally, you may be barred from entering the United States if you have been convicted or charged by an enforcement agency.

Legal Help in Toronto & Southern Ontario for Criminal Defense

If you or someone you know has been accused of shoplifting, do not hesitate to get legal representation. Contact What The Law today for a free consultation.