Why You Should Consult A Criminal Lawyer In The Event Of A Shoplifting Charge

A person accused of shoplifting ought to consider hiring a lawyer to advise them.

An incident that seems very mild, or not very serious, might not be as clear cut as you think. If you are detained or arrested, you have to have your rights read to you. But if you are detained prior to having the Right to Counsel read to you, then anything you said prior to that reading could be excluded and could taint the arrest as well as the investigation.

When you have a lawyer, you are insulated. For instance, whatever you tell the judge or the Crown can be used against you. They may not have a strong case against you, but if you admit certain things, suddenly they have admission. On the other hand, if your version of the incident comes from a lawyer, the lawyer’s not going to say anything contrary to your interest.

If you are charged with a soft offense, like shoplifting, you should see a criminal lawyer. The lawyer will look at your case the same way he or she would look at a more serious case, especially if you don’t have a criminal record and want to keep your record clear, especially if you have been charged wrongly, and especially if you are innocent of the crime.

You should get a criminal lawyer if you are guilty of the crime because there could be mechanisms out there, short of pleading guilty, where a seasoned criminal lawyer could get you that first break you deserve. If you had that first break, he may be able to push the envelope and get you a second break that you otherwise would not be able to get if you go in representing yourself.

What if the shoplifting charge involves a young person?

If a young person is subject to a charge or to a detention, the young person should consult a lawyer to see if all the rules have been followed. Failure to follow procedure could have an adverse impact on the strength of what otherwise could be thought of as a very strong police case.

A young person should be treated very, very cautiously. If a young person is detained by anybody for any reason, then the parent should be informed by a Notice to Parent. You don’t want anybody to be accused of unlawful confinement.

Are young offenders treated differently from adults when facing that charge?

Both young people and adults are given the same benefit of the doubt and given the same opportunity to have their charges diverted. It depends on the background and the previous history with respect to this sort of activity.

Whether you are an adult or young person, if you have been given an opportunity for diversion previously, you may have a much more difficult time getting the same break a second time. The courts generally do treat young persons more leniently with respect to what is regarded as one of the softer charges in the Criminal Code.

What are the consequences of a shoplifting conviction?

The impact of a criminal record for theft can be devastating. The charge of shoplifting falls under the Theft section of the Criminal Code and if you are found guilty, it is a criminal offense and it could lead to a jail sentence. It doesn’t always, but it could create a barrier to crossing the border to the U.S. or any other country. Also, it could impede one’s ability to obtain employment or advance in their current profession.

If someone is caught shoplifting, if someone is accused of the crime of shoplifting, whether they are a first offender or repeat offender, whether they are senior citizen or a young person or in their prime, whether they are employed or not employed, whether they have a family or not, whether they are a Canadian citizen or not, they should always, at the least, instruct and retain a criminal lawyer to have them review the file to determine what, if any, further action would be required.

If you, or someone you care about, is dealing with criminal law issues in the Ottawa, Ontario Region, contact Engel and Associates for a consultation.

This article is taken from a October 5, 2007 interview with Bruce Engel, Criminal Lawyer with Engel and Associates, an Ottawa, 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.