An individual is guilty of theft if they take a piece of property that does not belong to them and then seek to deprive the property’s owner of their asset. Now in possession of the stolen property, the individual seeks to use it for their personal gain, either in its intended use or by selling it illegally.
A key to the crime of theft is that the person who takes the property does so with criminal intent. If they take the property believing themselves to be the new lawful owners of the property, then it may be shown that they had no criminal intent and thus are not guilty of theft.
Burglary is no longer the name of a criminal offence in Canada. However, the actions that make up burglary are still considered criminal offences. Burglary is now more commonly regarded as a break-and-enter crime (or B&E).
Burglary or B&E crimes are identified by a few key factors, including:
- Breaking and entering a place with the intent to commit a crime.
- Breaking and entering a location knowing they are not legally permitted to be there.
- Breaking and entering a privately owned property and committing an indictable offence.
What Are Common Examples of Theft and Burglary?
Theft sentencing is divided by a $5,000 threshold. If the stolen property has a value of over $5,000, the sentencing will be more extreme, with a potential for up to a decade of imprisonment. The two sides of the threshold divide are often referred to as ‘under possession’ and ‘over possession.’
Examples of theft include:
- Breaking and entering.
- Forgery and credit card theft.
- Gasoline theft.
- Locker room theft.
- Mail theft.
- Motor vehicle theft.
- Stealing from your employer.
What Are the Legal Consequences for Theft or Burglary?
The chances of heightened sentencing, including a longer prison sentence, are increased if the value of the stolen property is worth more than $5,000.
There is no minimum sentencing requirement, meaning some defendants may be lucky not to receive high financial fees or lengthy prison sentences.
Maximum sentencing for stolen property valued under $5,000 includes up to two years in prison. Convictions for property theft valued over $5,000 have a maximum sentence of up to ten years in prison.
Does it Matter if the Defendant Did Not Intend to Commit a Crime?
It matters very much whether or not the defendant intended to steal a piece of property. If there was a lack of mental intent to commit the crime (lack of mens rea), then the party is likely innocent of the crime of theft.
Provided that you can prove that you had no knowledge you were stealing an item or that you mistakenly purchased stolen property, you may be able to argue a lack of intent. To do so, you need the professional legal counsel of an experienced criminal defence lawyer in your corner, or else you may have great difficulty convincing anyone of your side of things.
What is ‘Mens Rea’?
Mens rea means ‘guilty mind.’ The mental element of the crime – the understanding of wrongdoing and the intent to commit the crime – are paramount for a prosecution hoping to secure a conviction.
If you did not intend to deprive the lawful owner of the property, did not intend to misuse the property, and returned the property upon request, you may be able to prove a lack of mens rea.
Request a Consultation with an Experienced Criminal Defence Lawyer in Toronto Today
If you’ve been accused of theft in Canada, you must consult a professional criminal defence lawyer immediately. As your lawyer, William Jaksa will explore all the potential legal options suitable for your case, including potentially arguing a lack of criminal intent.
William Jaksa Criminal Litigation is the home of William Jaksa, a decorated criminal lawyer with nearly two decades of legal experience representing clients in Canada accused of criminal offences. To schedule a consultation with the lawyer and his legal team, please call us today at 647-951-8078.