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Toronto Shoplifting and Theft Under $5000 Charges Lawyer

First Offence Shoplifting Charges in Ontario, Canada

The consequences of being charged with shoplifting or theft under $5000 as a first time offence.

Getting caught and charged with shoplifting for the first time is an extremely serious matter. One minute a person goes from having a normal life, job, and a family and the next they are being forced to submit fingerprints and are facing the prospect of a criminal record and conviction. But it's not just the prospect of a criminal record that is dangerous, the charge itself can generate significant problems for the accused.

In Ontario, Canada all it takes is one security guard (normally undercover) to say you concealed and item with the intent to steal and the police will charge you (even if you have no prior record). Police sometimes press charges for shoplifting (theft under $5000) even in cases where it is unclear the accused intended to leave the store with the item.

There is very little police discretion used in these cases partly because of the false and misleading notion that first time shoplifting charges are not that “big of a deal”.

Are first time shoplifting charges a “big deal”?

Security guards and police sometimes tell the people they are charging that a first time shoplifting charge is “no big deal”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, if the police officer himself got charged with shoplifting his policing career would likely be over. If the security guard got charged with shoplifting, their chance of ever being accepted into policing (or another career in law enforcement) in the future would be practically zero.

While to them pressing shoplifting charges is just business as usual, to the person they are charging it is devastating. This is because the negative effects of a first time shoplifting charge are never fully reversible. The first time you are charged with shoplifting, you go from having no police history to being someone who can never truthfully state again that they have:
  1. never been charged with a criminal offence before;

  2. never been fingerprinted before;

  3. never been arrested before (though you are arguably only being legally detained and not arrested in certain circumstances).
The problem with this is that just having been charged and fingerprinted can negatively impact your travel, immigration, and career options both now and in the future.

Here are some ways in which this can come up:
  1. Immigration applications for work permits and permanent residency (including both Canada and United States) will often require you to disclose any prior charges regardless of conviction;

  2. US Customs and border guards for many countries will sometimes ask you if you’ve ever been charged, arrested, or fingerprinted before (and the US considers theft a crime of moral turpitude and will deny entry in certain circumstances);

  3. Applications for licensing in certain regulated professions such as medicine, nursing, dentistry, and law will often require you to disclose that you were charged;

  4. Applications for law enforcement careers require disclosure of prior charges regardless of disposition. This includes the RCMP, Provincial Police forces, Canadian Customs and Border Protection, CSIS, and more.

  5. Certain careers, such as teaching (or jobs that involve working with children) nursing and health professions, jobs working with the elderly or mentally ill, will often require a special background check known as a vulnerable sector check. Sometimes records of the shoplifting charge are disclosed for the purpose of a vulnerable sector check (even if the charge was withdrawn). This can cause problems with employment and employability for a wide range of career options.

  6. Some police forces have special vulnerable background checks for people working with finances and in business. Even a withdrawn charge may come back to haunt an accused.
This is why we state above that had the police officer himself been accused of a shoplifting offence (theft under $5000, fraud under $5000, or possession of property obtained by crime) he would have had to disclose this information on his policing application and likely would have been denied the ability to pursue a career in law enforcement. If he failed to disclose this information, it would have been found because a record of the charge is permanently stored in the local police database and likely the CPIC database as well (perhaps even if he requested that it be removed).

Being charged as a first time shoplifter can damage your reputation, career, options, and future.

While sometimes it is possible to avoid a formal “criminal conviction record”, there are other records of the charge itself (sometimes referred to as non-conviction records) that are retained and released in certain circumstances.

Here is how some of the information regarding a first time shoplifting charge is collected and stored by the police (some of which cannot be destroyed):
  1. Your name, charges, and personal information will be entered and permanently stored in the police database of the department that charged you. This database is accessible to other police departments, law enforcement agencies, and possibly US customs. This information is sometimes released and included for employment purposes if a vulnerable sector check is required (though repression is possible in certain circumstances);

  2. The Crown Attorney’s office will store and retain your file containing all information and evidence regarding the charge indefinitely;

  3. The court proceedings and transcripts of your matter being heard in court will become a public record that is releasable to anyone upon request;

  4. Your fingerprints and photograph will be collected and stored in the local police database (can sometimes be destroyed upon request);

  5. Your name, charges, fingerprints, and personal information will be provided to and stored in the national CPIC database maintained by the RCMP and accessible to all law enforcement agencies in Canada, the US, the UK, Australia, and other countries. Sometimes some of this information can later be removed however the process can take years. It is also unclear in such cases of removal whether the CPIC system keeps a permanent record that an entry once existed or not (thus indicating you have had criminal charges and/or contact with the police);

  6. Your fingerprints and CPIC “FPS” (charge information) may be downloaded by US customs from CPIC and stored permanently in the US Customs and Border Protection law enforcement database and a database administered by the FBI.
Even if the shoplifting charge is ultimately withdrawn, the simple fact that you were charged and arrested can still negatively impact your employment, travel, and future career opportunities. While some police records, in certain circumstances, are able to be destroyed upon request, others are permanent. It is also possible to specifically request the repression of some types of records.

The tremendous amount of misinformation regarding this type of offence, some of which largely stems from police, court workers, and in some cases lawyers, wrongly telling people it’s “no big deal” commonly leaves people uninformed and extremely vulnerable.

Police CPIC records: Are they ever completely destroyed?

Most first time shoplifters are unaware their charge information is being retained and shared

For a first time shoplifter, their personal and charge information will eventually be stored in CPIC. The CPIC system is a federal law enforcement database whose contents are not publicly accessible (but available to US, Canadian, and other law enforcement agencies). CPIC does not just keep records of convictions and sentences. It also contains information regarding charges, fingerprints, and a person’s other contacts with the police.

Thousands of Canadians live under the false impression that their CPIC record is clean when it’s really not. Many of these individuals received a pardon, an acquittal, or had their charges withdrawn. In reality, the charge, the date of the charge, and the name/fingerprints/information of the person are all still in CPIC. Contrary to popular belief, a pardon does not “clear CPIC”. It simply replaces the information about the sentence received with “Sealed on X date”. The person looking at CPIC will still know that you were charged and convicted of the offence (along with the dates).

Many Canadians find themselves denied at the US border because of a false belief that a withdrawn charge, acquittal, or a pardon gives them a perfectly clear law enforcement record. Moreover, the US Customs often download the CPIC information and store it permanently in their own computer system. There are many cases of Canadians who have been acquitted (found not guilty) being denied entry into the US because of the fact they were charged.

Being charged with shoplifting as a first time offender is often a person’s first contact with law enforcement and creates a record for them in CPIC. These people need to understand all their options and how to best deal with and avoid the possible future consequences they face. There is a tremendous amount of confusion and misunderstanding regarding exactly what is stored and removed from the CPIC database.

Bottom line: Shoplifting charges are serious even for first time offenders

A lot of people who are under the false impression that a first time shoplifting charge is “no big deal” receive a rude awakening when it shows up on a background check by an employer or customs. Just simply being charged can limit a person’s employment, travel, and future career options.

While some police records can be destroyed and repressed, it is not nearly as simple and straightforward as frequently described. Many unfortunate (and often permanent) problems associated with first time shoplifting charges could have been avoided had these individuals received proper legal advice from the beginning.


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
  • 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