Canada is very fortunate to enjoy one of the highest standards of living on the planet, complete with political and security stability that is the envy of the rest of the first world. This does not, however, mean that Canada is a perfect place, and, like every other country, crime still occurs, in particular theft. The theft most popularized in the news is of the type with easily understandable, high stakes motivations, such as bank robbery, or business embezzlement to the amounts of hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.
However, the most common form of theft, the type not reported by the news, is one that occurs on a daily basis everywhere. Shoplifting is one of the most common forms of expression of this form of theft, though many other variations occur.
In Canada, this is known as theft under $5000, and it is generally regarded as a “less serious” offence, compared to larger scale crimes, such as the theft of cars, or more comprehensive forms of business fraud. Theft over $5000 is considered a criminal offence and is treated as such, with up to 10 years of incarceration as a possible sentence. So what happens when the crime is less serious? If theft occurs and it is under $5000, what happens to you and your criminal record then?
Theft Is Still Theft
Whether something is stolen for $10000, or $5, theft in Canada is still considered a criminal offence and will be dealt with as such in court. This means that anyone who is charged with theft may want to seek the services of a criminal lawyer to handle the case, since a successful conviction of theft, even under $5000, does mean that the defendant now has an entry on his or her criminal record.
Because the theft occurred in amounts less than $5000, there is also a chance, depending on the nature of the theft, that there may be a term of imprisonment up to a maximum of two years. This usually occurs only under very serious circumstances, such as if the theft is also accompanied by breaking and entering for a “home invasion.”
This means that for anyone convicted with theft under $5000, the conviction will normally appear on any routine background check for criminal records. So despite the fact that this charge is often considered “light” by the public, it actually still has serious career repercussions for the people convicted, and can have a big, negative impact on their future prospects.
There are, however, different factors that can affect whether this conviction remains on a record or not.
The Mitigating Factors
Many different circumstances can play a role in whether or not a criminal record for theft is actually entered in the first place, or even struck at a later date with a record suspension. One of the biggest considerations in most cases is age. In normal cases involving a minor, a criminal record can eventually be expunged from the records, though it normally occurs a few years after a sentence has been served.
Another condition that may affect whether the court decides to pursue charges is the existence—or not—of a previous criminal record. If this is a first-time offence, there is a precedent for the court deciding to exercise leniency, but much of this may also depend on the circumstances of the theft. A very minor theft from a convenience store, for example, may gain the court’s leniency if it’s a first-time offence. On the other hand, if you were an employee at fast food restaurant and were caught stealing cash from the cash register, this is also a breach of trust against your employer, and would be a stronger motivation for the court to seek a full conviction.
In other cases, there is an alternative to a criminal conviction known as “diversion.” If the circumstances are favorable, the crime is considered minor, and this is a first-time offence, a diversion program may be recommended instead. This usually involves community work, attending a rehabilitation program or some other procedures. Once you complete your diversion program, your conviction is dismissed.
Of course, all of these factors are contingent on future behavior. If someone is convicted again of another criminal charge, this could result in reinstatement of previous charges. The important thing to remember in this case is that even theft under $5000 is a criminal act. And a successful conviction does mean an entry on a criminal record that will appear on background checks.