Are Police Obligated To Charge Someone Caught Shoplifting

Once a shoplifting complaint is made against somebody, the police decide whether to lay the charge.

For example, you might steal something from a grocery store and someone observed you doing so. The police are called, and when they arrive, the store person says he doesn’t want to see you charged after all. Perhaps they feel sorry for you or don’t want the bother of a legal proceeding. At that point, the police are the ones who make the decision. It is not up to the store person to say: do not charge him, let him go. The police will ask for input, they will consider it, and then they will decide whether or not to charge you.

Sometimes people do get breaks. They may be known to the police already, or they may be able to provide information that the police need. But usually, if you are caught shoplifting and the police are involved, you are going to be charged. Sometimes if it’s something very minor, they will ask the proprietor if he really wants to have you charged with stealing a chocolate bar, for instance, and they may give you a second chance.

However, I have seen people charged for stealing something as small as a chocolate bar. Most of the time, and even for small things, the shoplifter is charged although it is absolutely at the discretion of the police. When the situation involves hundreds of dollars worth of items then the police will always charge.

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If you, or someone you care about, is dealing with criminal law issues in the Oshawa, Ontario Region, contact Mitch Engel Barrister & Solicitor for a consultation.

This article is taken from a April 11, 2008 interview with Mitch Engel, Criminal Lawyer with Mitch Engel Barristers Solicitors, Oshawa, Ontario Criminal Law Firm. Note that laws vary from province to province. Please consult with a lawyer in your own area to be sure of the laws and specific issues in your own jurisdiction.