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Toronto Shoplifting and Theft Under $5000 Charges Lawyer

Co-accused shoplifting charges in Ontario, Canada.

How being charged with shoplifting as a co-accused along with a spouse, parent, child, friend(s), relative, etc. can impact your case.

Shoplifting charges often result from situations in which more than one person is in the store (usually two) together and they both get charged. 90% of these cases involve young adults (friends – to differing degrees) or spouses (husband and wife) caught together. Sometimes one person may be more culpable than the other, but Canadian criminal law of participation deems them as equally liable. Both are committing the crime, despite one being the mastermind. In any case involving co-accused individuals, they will be forever linked together by the criminal justice system.

Is being co-accused an aggravating factor that makes the case worse?

Yes. It is aggravating because the degree of calculation/intent is seen as higher in co-accused cases. It is more difficult to argue that it is an impulsive, out of the blue, one time mistake, when two people are involved. While many shoplifting cases are individuals who act out of impulse in the spur of the moment, when there are two people doing it together, it appears to be more financially motivated and less about trying to be rebellious (perhaps out of depression, boredom, stress, etc.). This being said, co-accused cases can also often be dropped depending on the individual factors of the case.

I did not personally carry the stolen items out of the store. How come I was charged too?

Participation does not necessarily mean you physically handled the items at all (let alone carried them outside of the store). The police will charge both people if they have evidence that both people were aware of what was going on. In shoplifting cases, having CCTV or an eye witness (security guard/private investigator) see the other person participate by acting in a way that demonstrates knowledge of the crime is often enough for both to be charged.

Common examples include:
  1. Looking into the cameras or the mirrors in the store
  2. Being on the lookout, blocking cameras, or standing in the way allowing the other person to conceal items
  3. Handling the items and/or handing them to the other person
  4. Being obviously present and aware when the items are concealed
  5. Removing price tags, security devices (perhaps with a detagger), and other manipulation of the items
  6. Being known to store security already and on their watch list
  7. Passing bags, purses, backpacks, or anything else (a booster bag) to the other person so they can conceal the item(s)
  8. Having one person purchase an item, pass the receipt to someone else who then grabs another of the same item off the shelf and return it for credit or cash
  9. Trying to distract store employees or security guards while the co-accused conceals or leaves with the items
While most security guards/private investigators are under instructions to let the person leave the store before arresting them (to bolster the case), they don't have to. The crime of theft under $5000 is committed when the person moves the item with the intent to steal. If you go to someone's house and take a twenty dollar bill on their table and put it in your purse because no one was watching you, the crime is committed when you put it in your pocket, not when you leave their house.

If you're with your friend or spouse who is concealing items with the intent to steal in a store, and you are aware of it, you are equally guilty under the law of criminal participation at the moment the concealment occurs. You don't have to be part of them actually leaving the store.

Theft/Fraud Under $5000 co-accused shoplifting cases involving adults and youth co-accused are the most aggravating

Crown Attorneys often seek harsher sentences when the shoplifting occurs in front of a child (even if the child is in a stroller/too young to remember). What is significantly worse, is when the youth (under age 18) participates in the theft along with the adult(s). Taking a young person, especially one 10 - 17 to participate in a shoplifting crime is seen as extremely aggravating and even some of the most lenient Crown Attorneys in Ontario will seek harsh punishments for the adult co-accused (often the parents) in these circumstances. If you are a parent whose child (teenager) is charged as a co-accused with you, your case is going to be assessed as highly aggravating by the Crown Attorney.

If you are caught shoplifting with anyone under 18 in your presence, depending on where you live in the Toronto area (GTA) there is also a good chance you can expect a call or knock on the door from a social worker from the Children's Aid Society. In terms of the criminal charges you are facing, the older the child the worse it is considered though many Crown Attorneys consider it particularly aggravating to use a stroller to hide the items in while committing the offence.

Multiple accused group shoplifting theft cases (more than two)

Sometimes young adults (often groups of three – five) get charged together with a theft. Perhaps one actually worked at the store and the scheme was to not ring in items, switch price tags, or otherwise defraud the store. Or maybe they were all customers. In these circumstances, while the Crown has a case against all individuals under participation law, it can be more difficult to prosecute them all. One may be the leader, in a position of trust, or has other circumstances making them more of the bad guy.

In these types of cases, we typically represent only one of the accused as their interests are often competing. Sometimes a deal can be made for our client to testify against the other people in exchange for having our client’s charges dropped. This can happen as well in two person cases, though it is very rare. Our job is to protect our clients no matter how awkward it may become.

Often our clients are young adults whose parents hire us while the other co-accused do not have the resources to hire a lawyer. Our loyalties are solely to our clients and we will do whatever it takes to get them the best result. In the long term, the permanent case outcome matters much more than current friendships/associations. This being said, we are obligated to take instructions from our clients.

Call us today for a free assessment

You don't have to jeopardize your future or waste thousands of dollars on excessive legal fees. We provide effective and affordable lawyer representation for those charged with all forms of theft and fraud related offences throughout Ontario, Canada.

Have a skilled criminal lawyer who focuses on theft and fraud related charges protect you and your future from the stigma and consequences of a criminal record.

Your case will be defended by a fully licensed Practicing Lawyer of the Law Society of Ontario. For more information about our lawyer, click here.

We provide our clients with:
  • Flat fee pricing
  • US travel advice and information
  • Employment background check advice/services
  • Fingerprints and records destruction services
  • Clear goals of getting charges dropped and bail conditions varied without a trial
  • Help with related immigration issues
  • Vulnerable Sector records suppression help
  • Experienced, focused counsel

* Please note:

If you are not a paying client, we cannot answer questions and provide assistance with U.S. travel, immigration, employment background checks, and avoiding a criminal record. This includes those who have already retained other counsel and those whose cases have already been completed. We also only take calls/emails relating to Ontario, Canada area cases.

Are you a lawyer? If you are defending a theft or fraud related case and are looking for expert advice regarding possible defences, case strategies, and information release management call us at: 647-228-5969.

Please note: We do not accept legal aid certificate cases. All clients are handled on a private retainer only.


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  We provide:
  • Flat fee pricing
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  • U.S. travel advice and information
  • Help with related immigration issues
  • Employment background check advice/services
  • Fingerprints and records destruction services
  • A clear goal of getting the charges dropped without a trial
  • Vulnerable Sector records suppression help
  • Timely resolutions
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  • Experienced, focused counsel