Shoplifting Arrests

Consequences of Shoplifting in Canadian Criminal Law

Being Arrested for Shoplifting

Shoplifting Arrests: When a person is arrested for shoplifting, it is normally as a result of a security officer’s observations.

Store security officers must see the theft occur before they can arrest or apprehend someone. Security officers cannot act on reasonable or probable grounds for a shoplifting arrest, like a police officer can. Once a security officer witnesses and observes a theft, the law allows them to make a peaceful arrest, after which they are required to forthwith notify the police.

Where the police are called by security for a shoplifting arrest, the police will typically review the security officers allegations and what they witnessed.  Where the police officer believes that the offence of theft has occurred, the officer can either continue the arrest.

The police officer has the choice to either the accused to a police station, or release them on a Promise to Appear to appear in court.

Promise to Appear

On many occasions where a police officer arrives and reviews the evidence of the store security they will make a decision as to whether the person apprehended should be criminally charged. The decision to charge the accused will depend upon:

  • opinion of the security officer, the
  • opinion of the police officer after hearing the facts, and
  • any policy of the store

Where the accused is charged the police officer will usually issue a form called an “Appearance Notice”. The appearance notice is a form stating the identity of the accused, that they have been charged with theft under $5000 as a result of an allegation of shoplifting, and a date that the accused must appear for court.

The accused must promise before the police officer to attend court prior to being released. Where the accused refuses to appear in court they will be taken to the police station and held in custody until they can be brought before a judge.

Shoplifting: Fingerprints & Photographs

Image of a fingerprint taken from person arrested for Shoplifting
Fingerprinting & Shoplifting

Under the Identification of Criminals Act of Canada When a person is arrested and charged with a criminal offence in Canada, they are subject to being fingerprinted and photographed.

This process involves the collection of personal information, including fingerprints, photographs, and other identifying information.

Where the accused is release at the scene by the police on a release document, the accused will be command to attend for fingerprints and photographs. Where the accused is taken to a police station, prior to being released the police will take the fingerprints and photograph at the police station.

Fingerprinting is used to create a unique identification record for the accused person.

Fingerprints are taken using an electronic scanner.  The fingerprints are then entered into the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database.  Once there they are added to a national database of fingerprints for identification purposes for security services and criminal records

Photographs are also taken to create a visual record of the accused person’s appearance at the time of their arrest. This information is used to confirm the identity of the accused person and to create a record of their arrest and charge. As well as fingerprints, photographs are then entered into the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database, creating a complete database of the accused.

Steps to Protect Your Future

If you have been charged with shoplifting, it’s important to take steps to protect your future to avoid the debilitating consequences of a shoplifting penalty. This includes seeking legal advice and learning what your options are for avoiding a criminal record.

As shoplifting lawyers we have one goal, to get the charges dropped without a criminal record that will haunt you for years. One option for avoiding a criminal record is to negotiate a plea bargain with the Crown involving a discussion as to what penalty other than a criminal record maybe appropriate in exchange for avoiding a criminal record. Another option is to receive a discharge, which involves a finding of guilt but no criminal conviction. Discharges may be available for first-time offenders or those who meet certain criteria.

It’s also important to seek support and guidance from friends, family, and professionals, in regards to letters of recommendation, volunteering or good character. This may include therapy or counselling to address underlying issues such as addiction or financial hardship. Taking steps to address these issues can not only help you avoid future criminal charges but can also improve your overall quality of life.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does a criminal record last?

The most debilitating penalty for shoplifting is the threat of a criminal record that can dramatically affect your life.

Once a criminal record has been applied it stays there for life.  Persons convicted of criminal offences like shoplifting can apply for a “record suspension” but only after a period of time has past and where they make application to do so.

Record Suspensions, (formerly called criminal pardons) typically take a year or more to process and there is usually a waiting period before you can apply. As well there may be costs involved to apply.

We always advise, better to avoid in the first place versus trying to fix later.

I missed the court date. What should I do?

The notice that the police officer gave you is a commandment to appear in court.  The officer asked that you promise to appear and you agreed.

Where you do not appear in court, the court will issue a warrant for your arrest.

Where you realise that you have missed the court date either by error or otherwise we recommend that you appear at the police station where you were charged from.  Once there you surrender yourself to the officers and explain to them that you have missed a court date.

The officers will “re-arrest” for the offence of Fail to Appear under the Criminal Code of Canada.  The will take you into custody, process you and then bring you before a judge.  Depending upon the circumstances the judge will release you on a second promise to appear for court, or hold you in custody pending trial.

Where a person does not surrender themselves, the warrant is issued for across Canada to all security services and border officers and stays in effect under the accused is apprehended..

What determines what penalty I receive for shoplifting?

Once your case appears before a crown attorney they will review the case and the police officers disclosure (officer’s notes) about what happened.

The crown attorney in reviewing your case will look at many factors including:

  • What was taken and value
  • Who took it and why,
    • was it a simple mistake or was it planned
  • What happened during & after arrest
  • The background of the accused,
    • do they have previous convictions or warnings
    • age, financial background, what you do, do you do any volunteer work
    • what is your position in the community

The background of the accused, what happened and what was taken.  All of these factors will be reviewed by the crown prior to any discussion about the charges and any penalty for shoplifting.

The security was rough and abusive, can I complain?

Yes you can complain, and it may help your case, but you need to review these issues with our lawyers.

Although you can walk into the court and say the officer was rough with you, it won’t carry much weight with the judge.  In that situation, the judge may state that the officers actions are not the issue. Any complaint about officers should be taken up with the police or security management, not the court system.

The better time to discuss this is, having our shoplifting lawyers set up a pre-trial meeting with the crown attorney to discuss these issues together with the discussion about the charges, and your good character.  During this process, where the actions of the police and security may have been aggressive, it can help in negotiations to have your charges dismissed and dropped.

Discuss your case with a shoplifting lawyer | Call today

Being charged with a criminal offence is stressful, but you don’t have to face it alone. Call and speak with a shoplifting lawyer and learn how we can help you. We provide effective and affordable legal representation for all individuals facing these charges throughout Ontario.

Work with a lawyer experienced with theft under and shoplifting charges. Invest in your future by keeping your record clear. Yes you might be able to appear by yourself, but if something goes wrong, then what? Call today and let’s just talk about it.

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