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Theft, robbery, and burglary all involve the stealing of property. These charges, however, under Canadian law have different meanings, interpretations and consequences. Defending against any of these charges requires an understanding of the differences between them.


Simply stated, theft is intentionally taking property that belongs to someone else. It occurs as soon as when the accused person moves or causes the movement of property with the intent of stealing it. They must form the intention to steal to actually commit the theft. In theft, the property can be stolen without interacting with the victim.

Shoplifting is a simple example of theft. If someone purposefully removes an object from a store without paying for it, that is theft. Legally speaking though, as soon as a person moves an object, with the intent to steal it, the shoplifting has occurred.

Theft doesn’t have to involve physical objects, but the stolen goods must be tangible. Misappropriation of money, or stealing telecommunication services are also examples of theft.

In Canada, theft is divided into two different offences:

Theft Under $5000

If the value of the stolen goods is under $5000 it is up to the prosecutor whether to treat it as an indictable offence or a summary offence.

An indictable offence is punishable with imprisonment up to 2 years. For a less serious offence, the prosecutor usually ops for a summary conviction. A summary conviction is punishable with imprisonment up to 6 months and/or a $2000 fine.

Theft under $5000 is usually only treated as an indictable offence in serious situations, particularly if combined with other charges. However, even a summary conviction results in a criminal record. So no matter the severity of the charges, it’s important to get an experienced lawyer that handles theft charge in Toronto.

Theft Over $5000

If the value of the goods exceeds $5000, it is always an indictable offence. Theft over $5000 is punishable with up to 10 years imprisonment.


Robbery differs from theft in that the goods are usually stolen directly from the owner. The robber uses intimidation, force, or coercion to obtain the goods.

A clear-cut example of robbery is a mugging. For example, a person armed with a knife approaches someone on the street and demands they give up their wallet. In this scenario the used intimidation through the threat of force to commit the robbery. This person would be charged with armed robbery.

Robbery is always an indictable offence. There is mandatory minimum imprisonment for any robberies that involve the use of a firearm. Prior convictions and other factors involved in the robbery increase the length of the sentence. For example, if the robbery is associated with a criminal organization, committed with a firearm, or with the intent to seal a firearm, a conviction can result in life in prison. An experienced criminal lawyer that handles robbery charges in Toronto is often necessary when dealing with these types of offences.


Burglary is a term no longer used in the Canadian Criminal Code. Offences that used to fall under burglary are now referred to as break and enter offences.

In the context of burglary, break and enter involves breaking into a place with the intention of stealing property. If a person breaks into a home and steals property they could be charged, in addition to break & enter, with theft, with possession of property obtained by crime, and mischief for any damages caused. If someone is home at the time of the theft, the accused may also face home invasion charges.

Home invasion is an aggravating factor in break and entry that can result in a more severe sentence. Some other aggravating factors include damage to property, carrying tools for break and entry, using a disguise, and the sheer level of sophistication and planning involved.


Although terms like theft and robbery are often used interchangeably, they have very different interpretations and consequences in court. If you or a loved one are facing theft, robbery, or break and entry charges in Toronto, you need an experienced criminal defence lawyer to assist you.

William Jaksa is a Toronto based lawyer with over ten years of experience in criminal defence. He understands that you are not your charges and treats each client with care and understanding. Contact us today to book a consultation.

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