Shoplifting and Travel to the USA

How a Criminal Record for Shoplifting Affects Travel

Criminal Records & USA Travel

Travelling to the United States with a criminal record for shoplifting can be a daunting prospect.

Shoplifting offences or a conviction for Theft under $5000 can lead to being denied entry to the USA.  Entry may be denied because Customs and Border Protection considers it to be a moral turpitude offence as defined by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

There are the ways in which a criminal record for shoplifting can affect travel to the USA from Canada.

Moral Turpitude & Crimes of Dishonesty

Moral turpitude offences are crimes of dishonesty that Customs and Border Protection officers are trained to deny entry for, even if an accused is not convicted or found guilty in court. Both Theft and Fraud Under $5000 are considered moral turpitude offences by the United States. This means that travellers can be denied entry into the U.S. simply for admitting to the crime of shoplifting.

Where you agree that the police report is correct the judge will then speak to the crown attorney.  The judge will be asking the crown attorney what punishment are they asking the court to make in the case. The crown attorney can ask the judge to impose any penalty they feel maybe warranted including, jail, fines, restitution, probations and community service.

Any penalty after a plea of guilty in this scenario includes a criminal record for life.

Admission vs Conviction

U.S. law is concerned with whether a person admits to committing a moral turpitude offence, not just whether a Canadian court found them guilty or convicted them.

This law is found in Section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which states that any alien who admits to having committed acts that constitute the essential elements of a crime involving moral turpitude is inadmissible.

As such, being charged with shoplifting can lead to being denied entry, even if the charges are dropped or if the accused is not convicted or found guilty in court.

USA Immigration & Travel

Travel to the USA is difficult with a Criminal Record

USA Travel and Shoplifting | Image of woman standing at the airport

All forms of shoplifting charges, including Theft Under $5000, Fraud Under $5000, Possession of Property Obtained by Crime, and Mischief Under $5000, are considered moral turpitude offences because they are crimes of dishonesty. Each offence is specifically listed as moral turpitude in the U.S. Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) under Section 9 FAM 302.3-2(B)(2)(U) Defining Moral Turpitude. This is the policy manual used by U.S. Customs as a guide to defining the terms and enforcing the law as prescribed by the INA.

Maximum Possible Punishment

Shoplifting is a summary offence in Canada, but upon some circumstances the Crown may elect to proceed by indictment (meaning a more serious event, requiring more serious consequences). Persons charged with theft under $5000 are subject to a maximum penalty of 2 years in prison by indictment.

This means that the offence is outside the INA exemption for crimes of moral turpitude where the maximum possible punishment is less than one year in jail.

Access to Information

All information regarding the arrest and charges is accessible to U.S. Customs via the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database. The charging police force records all information including name, date of birth, known addresses, physical description, charge, fingerprints, mugshot, etc. in the CPIC database. U.S. Customs has the ability to query any traveller to check for criminality which includes arrests, charges, convictions, sentences, etc.

Border Agent Discretion

Customs border agents at the point of entry (land, air or sea) have the absolute discretion to deny entry to any non-U.S. Citizen. Even if a traveller has not been convicted or found guilty of shoplifting, border agents may deny entry to the USA.

Red Flagged in the CBP Computer System

Once a person is denied entry into the U.S., they are red flagged in the CBP computer system at the border as someone who has previously been refused entry. This means that every time their passport is swiped, it pops up on the CBP computer system that the person has been denied entry for the rest of their life.

Steps to Protect Your Future

Being charged with a criminal offence is a serious issue. Take the steps to protect your future to avoid the debilitating consequences of a criminal record for shoplifting.

As criminal lawyers we see unrepresented people leave court with criminal records, that could have been avoided.  Persons who appear unrepresented put themselves and family at jeopardy.

The crown attorney is to prosecute criminal matters brought before them by the police.  The crown attorney is not at court to help you, give you advice or assistance. Nor, is it the crown attorney’s job to worry about whether you receive a criminal record or not.

When when charged with shoplifting and any criminal offence, speak to one of our criminal defence lawyers. Find out the Ontario Shoplifting Lawyers provides quality legal defence that will help you at an affordable one time fee.

As shoplifting lawyers we have one goal, to drop your shoplifting charges without a criminal record.  Give us a call today, let’s discuss your case.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will I be denied entry to the USA if I have not been convicted of shoplifting?

It is possible to be denied entry to the USA even if you have not been convicted of shoplifting. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Theft Under $5000 (shoplifting) is considered a crime of moral turpitude, which can lead to inadmissibility to the USA.

This means that even if you have not been found guilty or convicted, simply being charged with shoplifting can result in being denied entry. As well, if you admit to having committed a crime of moral turpitude, including shoplifting, or any criminal offence you may also be denied entry, regardless of whether you were convicted or found guilty in court.

Can a lawyer help me if I have a shoplifting charge and want to travel to the USA?

Yes, a lawyer can certainly help if you have a shoplifting charge and want to travel to the USA.

Specifically we can help you not get the record in the first place. A lawyer can provide legal advice specific to your case, help you understand the potential consequences of a criminal record on your ability to enter the USA, and assist you in navigating the complex legal system.

A lawyer may also be able to help you seek a pardon or record suspension, which could improve your chances of being admissible to the USA. It’s important to choose a lawyer who is experienced in immigration and criminal law, and who understands the laws and policies of both Canada and the USA.

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.

Scroll to Top
Call Now 647-875-6305