Fraud & Theft
What You Need to Know
At its most basic level, theft is simply taking something that doesn’t belong to you (stealing). The basic legal principles of theft, according to Canada’s Criminal Code, involve a conversion of property that is not yours and a corresponding deprivation to the owner. For example: if I simply steal your car, that is considered theft.
Fraud is similar to theft, however it involves an additional element of deceit or misrepresentation in the offence. For example, if I knowingly give you a NSF cheque for your car, that is fraud. Fraud takes on many forms, including pyramid schemes, identity theft, forgery, embezzlement, tax evasion, insurance/mortgage/bank fraud, perjury, and cyber crimes. The list is endless and all are considered a felony under the Criminal Code of Canada.
The severity of a theft or fraud charge is largely dependent on two factors: 1) the value of the goods taken (the greater the value the more serious the offence) and 2) the sophistication of the theft (the more sophisticated the act or scheme the more serious the offence).
Shoplifting, for example, is often done on a whim, involves a low value of goods, and often attracts a small fine as a penalty. On the other hand, a complex pyramid or Ponzi Scheme involving hundreds of victims and the loss of millions of dollars can result in lengthy periods of incarceration. In a fraud allegation, the person or institution defrauded does not even necessarily have to suffer a loss. Simply issuing someone a bad cheque without them cashing it can complete the offence.
Theft from an employer or defrauding an employer is a unique sub-category and is treated with great seriousness by the Courts, as employees are in a ‘position of trust’ to employers, meaning essentially that employers are especially vulnerable to theft by employees. As such, even in cases when the value of the theft from employer is relatively low, the Crown will routinely seek jail time and the Judge will routinely grant it.
Recent changes to the Criminal Code have made the consequences for higher end thefts and frauds more serious than ever before. Most notably, conditional sentence orders (house arrest) are no longer available to those people convicted of theft or fraud over $5,000. As such, a conviction for theft or fraud over $5,000 could very well result in a period of incarceration (jail).
The good news for you is that complicated theft and fraud charges may be difficult to prove in a court of law. Our experienced criminal theft and fraud lawyers can dissect the Crown prosecutors’ case and raise a solid defence to the charges you face.
Consequences of theft and fraud will vary depending on the severity of the crime. At a minimum, fines for petty theft or shoplifting may be incurred. Theft over $5,000 will exempt you from a conditional sentence (house arrest) and will come with a permanent criminal record. Long term effects from more complex fraud and theft issues will negatively impact your business and personal relationships.
How We Can Help
Given the number of legal complexities surrounding these types of cases you will benefit from the assistance of experienced and knowledgeable legal counsel. The lawyers at Dunn & Associates will work to secure the best possible outcome for your case. Here are some of the possible areas where our firm can assist you:
- Alternative Measures Program: If you are caught committing a minor theft or shoplifting, a Crown Prosecutor may refer you to the Alternative Measures Program. This is a program that allows you to complete community service or make a donation in exchange for the charges being dropped. A lawyer can help negotiate this outcome for you and guide you through the program.
- Trial: Taking your matter to trial means that the Crown Prosecutor will attempt to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Fraud cases are almost never cut and dry. More often than not there will be evidentiary and legal issues at trial that will give rise to a defence.
If your case goes to trial, the charges against you can be defended in a number of ways:
- Challenging the facts: How was the theft or fraud committed? Were there witnesses to the allegations? Did the police find a paper trial? Is there another explanation? Fraud cases are often prosecuted by following the paper-trail. From an evidentiary standpoint, this may make it difficult for the prosecution to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
- Interpreting the law in your favour: We argue the law and precedent in a way that is most favourable to your specific case and fact scenario. This is achieved through careful and diligent legal research and application.
- Violations of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms: Every Canadian Citizen and every person within the borders of Canada is entitled to the protection of our Constitution, and more specifically to the rights guaranteed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Some rights often violated by law enforcement officials are: your right to life, liberty and security of the person; your right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures; your right to be free from arbitrary detention and your right to retain and instruct counsel without delay and to be informed of that right. A violation of your constitutionally protected rights and freedoms which results in evidence being seized (computers, banking documentation, stolen goods; etc.) could be excluded from evidence at your trial and may render it impossible for the Crown to prove the case against you.
- Sentence: In some cases, the best course of legal action may be to reduce the damage that may be done to you. Not all cases are defensible or result in acquittals. In these circumstances you will benefit from an experienced lawyer who can help keep your sentence as lenient as possible. This could include any number of possibilities:
- Avoiding a Criminal Record: In less serious theft and fraud cases it may be possible to argue for a conditional discharge if you are convicted. This means that it may be possible to avoid the imposition of a conviction on your criminal record despite the fact that you were found guilty.
- Avoiding jail time: Where jail is a possibility our lawyers will paint the best picture of your personal circumstances in an effort to avoid incarceration. This often means you will receive a fine or a period of probation.
- Reducing jail time: In those circumstances where jail is unavoidable, the goal will be to keep any potential jail sentence as short as possible.
Call us. We can help.
If you have been accused of identity fraud, charged with stealing, or have been involved in a PayPal scam, don’t simply plead guilty. Let our Calgary team of criminal lawyers help to understand your case and direct an appropriate course of action.