Home  |  FAQ  |  Terms  |  About  |  Learn  |  Contact    

Toronto Shoplifting and Theft Under $5000 Charges Lawyer

Those charged with shoplifting often suffer from depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions that can impact their behaviour

While mental health illnesses can sometimes work in the defendant’s favour, if they are not presented properly they can also lead the courts to impose serious interferences with the accused’s liberty, freedom, and legal status. A lawyer must be careful to ensure their client’s true best interests are being protected.

A large percentage of our clients suffer, or have suffered in the past, from some sort of mental health related problem. The most common tend to be depression, anxiety, bi-polar, panic attacks, and sleeping disorders. Others suffer from pain related conditions including migraine headaches, back and neck problems, and generally other forms of chronic pain.

These conditions increase the level of stress that the person experiences generally and can impact their behaviour and judgement. For some people who suffer from depression and anxiety, shoplifting is used as a cathartic outlet or escape from their internal mental anguish. Individuals who are predisposed to shoplifting may sometimes feel a tremendous temptation or urge to steal which is often used to relieve themselves from other forms of pain they are currently experiencing.

Many times there is a combination of an underlying mental health issue along with current life stresses that are higher than normal at the time of the event, such as:
  1. Family and relationship problems (separation, divorce, etc.)
  2. Work related stress involving co-workers, bosses, etc.
  3. The death of a family member or friend
  4. Stresses related to another case/legal issue (family court, lawsuits, etc.)
  5. Being in an accident
  6. Being the victim of a crime
  7. Financial difficulties, job loss, or threat of job loss
  8. Being the victim of domestic violence or abusive behaviour
  9. Problems associated with childhood abuse
  10. PTSD
  11. Stresses relating to issues occurring in the individual’s home country (for immigrants)
  12. Issues relating to problems with the person’s children
The overwhelming pressure of both the person's current life stresses and their underlying depression/anxiety can cause them to act completely out of character in the heat of the moment. This is one of the reasons why many accused shoplifters are people of very normal backgrounds who are often educated and successful. These people are usually not prone to other criminal behaviour.

Medications prescribed for depression, anxiety, pain, etc. can also impact behaviour

Any medication can impact a person's behaviour and thought processes. The combination between the mental illness itself and the medication (or combination of medications) used to treat it, can cause the person to act out of character and in some cases lead to an increased propensity to shoplift.

Sometimes the individual's Doctor has recently changed their dosage or prescribed a new medication. Other times the individual has recently stopped taking a certain medication. Any time there is a change in what the person is taking, an adjustment period may take place putting them at a higher risk to shoplift. Changes in medication can also impact how a person reacts to being confronted by store security and thus can increase the likelihood of additional charges for resisting arrest or attempting to escape lawful custody.

Some of the common medications we see accused shoplifters take include:
  1. Cipralex
  2. Effexor
  3. Prozac
  4. Wellbutrin
  5. Zoloft
  6. Xanax
  7. Lorazepam
Sometimes these medications are being mixed with painkillers such as Tylenol 3, Oxycontin, Naproxin, etc. which may cause interactions that impact behaviour.

Mental health conditions can sometimes be used to legally benefit the accused if presented properly

Shoplifting crimes (theft and fraud under $5000) have a high rate of recidivism and therefore one of the most important case factors that Crown Attorneys and Judges assess is the likelihood that the accused will reoffend. Suffering from a mental health problem can help explain why the accused acted out of character and often can work to the accused's advantage if combined with proper counselling or treatment to show the individual received help, addressed the underlying issues, and therefore is unlikely to be charged again.

This can include addressing the side effects of the medication (or combinations thereof) that the accused was taking at the time of the incident, the effects of the condition itself, and the difficult life circumstances they may be currently experiencing. As such, we encourage our clients to retain all documents demonstrating their counselling, treatment, and prescription/hospitalization history.

While mental health illnesses are relevant and can be mitigating factors, a lawyer must be careful in how they approach these issues.

When you are charged with a criminal offence, it is not like taking a sick day off from work or school. A Doctor's note or diagnosis is not a "get out of jail free card". Probably the majority of people in the criminal justice system have some sort of mental health or addictions problem. This being said, in our experience most Crown Attorneys and Judges will consider the circumstances of the accused when evaluating their behaviour. Mental health problems can impact judgment particularly in situations of duress. This can sometimes be used to gain leniency in the regular court system.

Pushing a mental health condition too hard in certain cases can have a severely negative impact on the accused’s liberty, freedom and legal status

A defence lawyer must be extremely careful in how they use mental health information because sometimes it can backfire by leading the accused down a mental health court/program path that is not necessarily in their best interest. It is not always in the best interest of the accused to be brought before a formal mental health court, to be placed in a mental health diversion program, to be found unfit to stand trial, or not criminally responsible.

The reason for this is that these paths can carry indefinite conditions that limit the accused's freedom and require them to submit to medical treatment and doctors that are not of the accused's choice. While in the regular court system if properly managed perhaps the case could be withdrawn in a matter of days to a few months, in the mental health courts and court programs the case could take years or continue indefinitely while the accused's freedom and liberty is limited or supervised.

For example, the "mental health diversion" program usually requires at least 6+ months of treatment from appointed Doctors and at the end the charges are often "stayed" and not withdrawn. Not only has the court system branded the person as having some sort of a mental health issue, the charge is not ultimately withdrawn. A stayed charge from a mental health diversion can show up on certain types of background checks and is not necessarily recognized by US Customs potentially causing travel problems to the United States

While in some cases a mental health diversion is a good option, in others there are better options available to the accused. The criminal justice system in the Greater Toronto Area is clogged with cases and filled with Government paid court employees under mandated pressure to move cases along quickly. It is very easy for a defendant to find themselves on the wrong path. A lawyer must be careful to ensure their client's true best interests are being protected and that their client does not become wrongly labelled and have their liberty and freedoms taken away by the system.

I thought mental health always worked in the accused’s favour in Canada?

It depends on the case. For someone charged with first degree murder and facing a minimum sentence of 25 years in a federal penitentiary without parole, a mental health related option allowing them to be sent to a psychiatric treatment facility and perhaps later released in the community is probably in their best interests.

For a shoplifter, with a family, a job, and a future ahead of them, often it is not. Being branded and labelled as someone with mental health problems can have severe and indefinite consequences on an accused's freedom and legal status. While mental health issues, if appropriately presented, can sometimes mitigate and work to the benefit of the accused in shoplifting cases, a lawyer must be extremely careful in how they execute such strategies.

Being criminally charged can compound (substantially increase) the effects of the defendant's existing depression and anxiety

Oftentimes, as outlined above, the shoplifting incident is the result of the individual going through a difficult time at the moment combined with some underlying issues of depression, anxiety, etc. When the accused is charged criminally the experience of being arrested and fear of having to go to court can be extremely traumatic for some people. This is often the first time that they were detained beyond their will (possibly handcuffed). Sometimes it takes hours for the police to arrive and the accused is kept in a very small room only to sit and ponder what will come next. Store security are sometimes quite unforgiving in their verbal approach with those they catch. Next, the police come and charge the person criminally.

This sort of experience has a tremendous effect on many people and is something they likely will never fully forget. The fear and shame of their family, friends and community finding out combined with the possibility of getting a criminal record, losing their job, immigration status, or ability to travel in the future can be overwhelming. For those already predisposed to mental health issues, this sort of event can cause extreme anxiety (even paranoia in some cases), sleeplessness, and greater degrees of depression.

While this is a situation that needs to be carefully managed (so that problems are avoided), it is important that you try to remain positive - things will get better.

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.


Prefer to reach us via email?
Fill out the below form:

Name (required):


Email (required):



Case Details (required):

  Law and Consequences

  We provide:
  • Flat fee pricing
  • 99%+ non-conviction success rate
  • 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
  • Lawyer/client privilege
  • Experienced, focused counsel