• Shoplifting
  • Theft from Employer
  • Breaking and Entering
  • Possession of Stolen Property


Shoplifting is the most common type of theft and, because it usually involves a small amount of merchandise of minimal value, is treated differently from other Theft charges. If you have no prior criminal record, and are arrested on a charge of shoplifting, (Theft Under $5000), the prospect of your being sentenced to a jail term if convicted is so slim as to be virtually non-existent. The real issue is whether you are going to come out of it without a criminal record. The good news is that if your case is handled properly, that is usually an achievable objective, even if you admit criminal responsibility. Apart from an acquittal at trial, possible positive outcomes that will leave you with no criminal record include successful diversion or the court’s granting a discharge.

Theft from Employer

Theft from Employer is considered a serious form of theft because it involves a breach of trust. How serious will depend upon numerous factors including the amount in issue and the sophistication of the scheme. Not only does a conviction frequently result in a jail term, the stain on your reputation and career can permanently undermine your ability to earn a living, at least in any position of trust. Because a conviction carries such a heavy risk of a jail term, it will be necessary for us, at an early stage, after reviewing the evidence and advising you as to your prospective defences to prioritize your objectives. For example, if you absolutely cannot face the prospect of a jail sentence, we would conduct your defence in such a way as to minimize that risk. If, on the other hand, it’s the criminal conviction that concerns you more, there would be a different approach.

Breaking and Entering

Most breaking and entering charges arise with respect to entries into dwelling houses with the intent to steal property. This is a “straight indictable” offence carrying a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment. The length of the maximum sentence means that discharges are unavailable and a criminal record will automatically result on conviction, no matter how many mitigating factors might be present. While the imposition of a sentence even close to the maximum sentence is rare, there is always a strong likelihood of jail time in such cases. Unless you are caught red handed, most of these cases will turn on “circumstantial evidence” such as fingerprints or recent possession of property that can be proven to be stolen. The nature of the defence will be purely fact driven.

Possession of Stolen Property

If you are charged with this offence, it will either be for property valued at over or under $5,000. The value of the property will determine the manner in which you are charged and the potential penalty. Common defences to this charge include raising a reasonable doubt as to the nature of the property (ie is it stolen?) or, if it is, your knowledge that this is the case. Apart from acquittal at trial, possible positive outcomes that will leave you with no criminal record include successful diversion or the court’s granting a discharge.

The statement above is not legal advice. It is simply intended to give a very general understanding of the law in this area. For legal advice on search and seizure, recovery and forfeiture, click here.