Know Your Charges: Theft, Robbery, and Fraud
The offence of theft contains three elements which the Crown must prove beyond a reasonable doubt: 1) that the accused has taken something 2) fraudulently and without colour of right and, 3) with intent to deprive the owner of his property or interest in it. Put more simply, theft is defined as the fraudulent taking of someone’s property without an honest belief that you had the right to use or possess it.
Given the breadth of the definition, a person could be charged with theft for a wide variety of acts, the seriousness of which varies greatly. Theft includes offences such as shoplifting and theft under $5000, and also more serious offences such as stealing confidential information from an employer, or the transfer of an interest in property without lawful authority. There are numerous other forms of theft for which a person could be charged.
The police can charge you with theft even if you believe you had the authority to use the property in question. At trial, it will be up to the Crown to prove that you knowingly took the item without consent. If the Crown can prove that beyond a reasonable doubt, and you want to rely on the defence of “colour of right”, it will fall on you to present evidence of your honest belief that you had the authority to use or possess the property.
Robbery is an “aggravated” form of theft and is generally defined as the taking of someone else’s property by using violence or threats of violence. The taking of someone else’s property while armed with a weapon (even if the weapon isn’t physically used) is also a form of robbery. Think of robbery as theft plus the threat of force or use of force. Even a relatively small amount of force, such us pushing someone or grabbing someone’s arm, can be enough to elevate a theft to a robbery.
Robbery is considered a more serious crime than theft alone. As such, the range of sentencing for robbery tends to be more severe than for theft. In particular, the most severe penalties for robbery are given if the attacker used a firearm – an offence which attracts a minimum penalty of four years in jail.
Also closely linked to the theft is the offence of fraud, which can be broadly described as the deceiving of another person or the public for the purposes of financial gain. To be convicted of fraud an accused person need not have obtained the victim’s property. The Crown needs only to prove that an accused committed an unlawful deception or acted with intent to deceive the victim. Fraud includes such acts as the selling of fake corporate shares, and the falsification of documents. It also includes crimes involving identity theft such as the use of credit cards to procure goods, and the use of someone else’s identification to procure alcohol. Fraud charges can be complex and often require the assistance of a lawyer who understands the elements of a fraud in order to be acquitted of the charge.
A theft or fraud conviction could have a significant impact on your reputation and may also result in jail time. If convicted of fraud, robbery, or theft, the accused will be required to attend a sentencing hearing in which it will be determined what kind of punishment will be given for the offence committed. Sentencing for theft and fraud ranges for anywhere between 2 to 10 years in jail and could include some form of community service. Depending on the seriousness of the offence, an individual convicted of robbery could be facing up to a life sentence in prison. However, such a sentence can be reduced provided you or your attorney can effectively argue the mitigating factors to warrant a lesser sentence.
Each person’s case is different. Tyler MacDonald understands the elements of law related to theft and fraud and he will work hard to advocate on your behalf. Call Mr. MacDonald to get an accurate understanding of what your options are. Your initial consultation is always free.