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Toronto Shoplifting and Theft Under $5000 Charges Lawyer

Petty theft charges in Ontario, Canada

While petty theft is always classified as theft under $5000 (s. 334 (b)), most theft under $5000 cases are not considered petty theft

The Criminal Code of Canada does not specifically codify any form of theft as “petty theft”. Instead, there are two classifications of theft charges: theft under $5000 and theft over $5000.

Some people use the term petty theft to refer to low value shoplifting offences such as stealing a small amount of food from a store. While in other jurisdictions such as in the U.S. the criminal law has numerous categories of theft crimes ranging from petty to major, in Canada all thefts (or frauds) under $5000 in total value are classified the same. The charge of theft under is described in Section 334 (b) of the Criminal Code which states:

334 Except where otherwise provided by law, every one who commits theft

      (b) if the value of what is stolen is not more than $5,000, is guilty

       (i) of an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or

       (ii) of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

While two years is the maximum punishment is 2 years if the Crown Attorney chooses to proceed by summary conviction under Section 334 (b)(ii) the maximum punishment is 6 months in jail. This distinction is also important for those charged with petty theft as it is beneficial for IRCC and U.S. travel applications.

The total value of the stolen goods matters when assessing how serious the case is

While the charge is the same whether the amount taken is worth $5 or $4999.00, this does not mean that the Crown Attorney (prosecutor) and the Judge will not take into consideration the amount taken when making decisions regarding the case. Most Canadian Jurists and Prosecutors would consider thefts under the value of $20 to be petty thefts in a shoplifting context involving essential items (food, medicine). Either way, the charge will still show up the same way in police databases such as CPIC as theft under $5000.

In terms of the evaluation of the theft by the Crown and Judge, the context of the theft also matters significantly. If someone is working for an employer and steals from the workplace it will never be considered a petty theft. Further, in cases where the items stolen are of a sentimental value (pictures, heirlooms, etc.) the theft will not be considered petty even if the market value of the items was under $20.

In the Toronto, Ontario area (GTA) the seriousness assessment also takes into consideration how the theft was orchestrated

It is considered much worse to steal from someone’s locker, whether locked or not, at the gym or a pool than to steal from a large retail store as a customer. Petty thefts are generally very low value (under $20) shoplifting related offences involving retail stores for which the suspect does not work.

Even low value shoplifting cases may be considered as extremely serious if the suspect is with children at the time, someone with a mental health problem, tries to run away, fights with the security guards, etc. Each case will be evaluated on the totality of the circumstances. Also, cases are assessed differently throughout the GTA. A case in Oshawa may be viewed far more harshly than one in Milton, Brampton, Newmarket, or the proper city of Toronto by the Crown Attorney.

The goal of the defendant's lawyer is always to try to get the charges dropped (withdrawn) but in some cases it is more difficult than others.

I had an incident with store security. How do I know if I have been charged?

Those criminally charged with theft under $5000 will receive a fingerprint date and a court date. This is usually on a white or blue/green Form 9 Appearance Notice or a white Form 10 Undertaking document. In the vast majority of petty theft cases the police will release the accused from arrest using this method. They do not have to release the accused on scene however and also have the option of taking them to the station and releasing them or holding them for a bail hearing.

In Ontario each retail store has different policies for their employees to follow when it comes to shoplifting. Some stores do not permit their security guards to physically arrest those they catch shoplifting. In these cases the suspect is typically followed into the parking lot while refusing to follow demands to come back to the store with security, gets into their car and drives off. The security will then record the licence plate and report it to the police.

If the police decide to charge the person they will either call them (usually from an unknown/blocked number) and ask them to attend at the police station or show up at their home and provide them with a fingerprint/court date (Form 9 or Form 10) or take them to the police station.

The bottom line is that if you have a fingerprint date (or have been fingerprinted) and a court date for an offence listed as theft under $5000, fraud under $5000, possession of property obtained by crime, or a combination thereof you have been criminally charged by the police.

What are the punishments and consequences for those caught committing petty theft in Canada?

Each province and city in Canada handles these cases differently. In the Greater Toronto Area people are routinely charged with theft under $5000 for petty theft related cases. Like anyone else charged with theft under $5000 they are fingerprinted and have their mugshot taken under the Identification of Criminals Act and must attend court (or have their lawyer do so) to answer to the charges. They are liable to up to 2 years imprisonment but this would be an unlikely sentence for a first or second time offender.

For first time offenders charged with petty theft under $5000 they are unlikely to receive a jail sentence assuming there are no other aggravating factors in their case.The main concerns for first timers are being placed on probation, being fined, and receiving a permanent criminal conviction record. Everyone who receives a sentence of a fine regardless of how low for theft under $5000 receives a criminal record in Canada. For more information on what factors are considered aggravating, see our page on theft under $1000.

Having theft under $5000 show up on their criminal record could mean they lose their job, are denied future employment opportunities, have their immigration / IRCC applications refused, be deported, and also be denied the ability to travel, live or work in other countries/places such as the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union.

Regardless of how “petty” the theft may be, it will show up the same on criminal record checks as “theft under $5000” for those who are convicted.

It also shows up this way in police, U.S. customs, and IRCC database searches. Those who are charged with any form of theft in Canada must be proactive both in trying to get the best possible outcome for their case and also in having as much information as possible be destroyed from police databases relating to the charges themselves.

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