Youth and Shoplifting

What is shoplifting?

Shoplifting is when you steal something from a store. By stealing something you are intending to take something that doesn't belong to you without paying for it. If you are caught shoplifting the store security may stop you and call the police. You could be arrested and taken to the police station. If this happens your parents will be told.

If you are caught shoplifting the police will decide whether to lay a charge. If you have stolen something from a store, like clothes, or food, you might be dealt with by way of extrajudicial measures.

I just stole a pack of gum, is it really a crime?

Yes. If you take property belonging to another person it is a crime.

Theft under $5000
The Canadian Criminal Code treats theft under $5,000.00 differently than theft over $5,000.00. Theft over $5,000 is much more serious and will result in a more severe sentence if you are found guilty.

If you are charged with a crime it can be treated in two ways:
Summary Offence: As a youth you can be fined up to $1000 or imprisoned for up to 6 months, or both. Usually, you will not get the maximum sentence especially if you are a first time offender.

Indictable Offence: This is the most serious way of dealing with a crime. You could be fined and or imprisoned for up to 2 years. Usually the Crown prosecutor will not use this kind of charge for a first offence.

The Crown prosecutor will take other factors into account when deciding how to proceed, like whether or not you have a youth record.

What is a Civil Recovery Demand Letter?

Some companies will send a demand letter to anyone who has been caught stealing from their stores. If you have been caught stealing, your parents might get one of these letters about the theft.

These letters are usually signed by a lawyer and will demand a payment of several hundred dollars. Sometimes the letter will say that if you do not pay by a certain date, the amount will increase.

Do I have to pay?

No. A Civil Recovery Demand letter is not a court order. You can choose to make the payment or not. If you do not pay, the store might decide to sue you, but usually the store will not do anything if you refuse to pay. You can choose to ignore the letter.

The letter was addressed to my parents – Do they have to pay?

No they do not have to pay. Your parents are only legally responsible for harm you cause if your parents have been negligent in supervising you or if they told you to do something.


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