Tag Archives: Ottawa Criminal Defence Lawyer

How Many People Are Charged with Shoplifting?

Did you know there are typically over 50,000 people charged with shoplifting and Theft Under $5,000 throughout Canada, each year? This criminal offence is defined in the Criminal Code of Canada in Section 334(b) and includes shoplifting, since most shoplifters rarely attempt to steal property valued at more than $5,000.

People, who shoplift, typically focus on one of several different types of property they steal from retail stores. Common items stolen include:

  • Alcohol
  • Clothing and Apparel
  • Jewelry
  • Food
  • Cosmetic and Beauty Products

Shoplifters tend to avoid electronics as most items, these days, are either locked up and require getting a store associate to give you access, are tagged with anti-theft devices, or are too large to easily sneak out of a store.

What Does the Typical Shoplifter Look Like?

Some people might answer this question by saying shoplifters are only lower incomed and poor people. Others would say they are young offenders and delinquents, who like putting themselves into high risk situations simply for the thrill. However, you would be surprised to learn there is not any particular profile that can be used to describe the typical shoplifter. Shoplifters come from all societal backgrounds, income levels, educational levels, and ages, from teenager to senior citizens.

In fact over half of the people caught and charged with shoplifting have no prior criminal record. Even more alarming is these first time offenders are well-educated, with decent paying careers or come from families where paying for the items would not be an issue. In other words, over half of people charged each year are respected by their peers and community, that is, before they are caught shoplifting.

How Are Shoplifters Caught?

Most shoplifters are caught by a retail store’s security agents, either in plain clothes or uniformed. Normally, they wait for the person to leave the store and then apprehend them and take them to a security office. Some security agents will try a friendly approach and request the person provide their name, address, phone number and date of birth. In addition, they might say if they cooperate with them they will not call the police. Others will take a different tactic and use intimidation or threatening language to illicit this information and/or a confession from the alleged suspect.

What Rights Do Alleged Shoplifters Have?

The reason the security guard is trying to obtain the suspect’s personal information is so they can forward this to the store’s lawyers. The store’s lawyers will then send the suspect a letter demanding for civil recovery and paying a hefty fee directly to the store. This demand is in no way a criminal charge for shoplifting. Additionally, the suspect has the legal right to remain silent. They do not have to answer any of the security guard’s questions or provide their personal information.

The best course of action, if you are suspected of shoplifting, is to remain silent. Eventually, the security guard or store will call the police. Upon arriving, the police will take a formal statement from the guard, as well as collect any evidence, such as CCTV footage. The police may question you, but again, you have the right to remain silent. However, you do have to provide the police with your contact information. They will then issue a Notice to Appear form and collect any items you were accused of stealing.

At this point, it is highly recommended you contact an experienced criminal defence lawyer in Ottawa. You are not formally charged with shoplifting until the charges are sworn in court in front of a judge and presented by the Crown’s lawyer.

There are several potential defences to shoplifting charges. You should never treat shoplifting as a minor crime as it carries with it severe penalties. Common punishments for being found guilty of shoplifting include court fines and fees, potential jail time, damage to your reputation and career, and restrictions on travel. If you have been issued a Notice to Appear for shoplifting, contact Céline Dostaler today at 613-695-8595 to schedule a free case evaluation and consultation appointment.

Why should I retain my own lawyer?

In courts across Ontario, Duty Counsel help unrepresented accused everyday. Duty Counsel are lawyers. Some work exclusively for Legal Aid, while others are private lawyers working on a contractual basis with Legal Aid Ontario.

If Duty Counsel represent people who do not have a lawyer, why should I retain my own lawyer?

First, not everyone is financially eligible for duty counsel services. Generally, duty counsel does not assist with pretrials, preliminary hearings, trials or superior court matters.

Second, Duty Counsel meet with a large number of accused on a regular basis. You may have to wait long periods of time before you speak with a Duty Counsel on your day in court, and you may not get the chance to tell them everything about your case. In addition, Duty Counsel does not keep extensive files, and you will have to re-explain your situation may times, starting over each time you get to court. Finally, Duty Counsel typically does not have the chance to review all the disclosure with you: they review the 1-2 page charge summary and give you an opinion based on that information, not on the entirety of the Crown’s file.

Hiring a private counsel is different: you hire a lawyer based on her experience and expertise. You often choose a lawyer based on her personality and the trust you establish while consulting with her, and reviewing her profile. Private counsel gets to know you and your personal situation. Your lawyer will review your complete file. Your counsel can review the file and provide you with advise on a trial, pretrial, preliminary hearing or plea of guilty.

Often, duty counsel will tell clients that complicated matters should be dealt with by private counsel, who can provide sufficient time, research and continuity for the most advantageous results.

The Right to a Lawyer Of Choice

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides that anyone under arrest or detention has the right to retain and instruct counsel without delay.

Police have to advise the person under arrest of their rights. In order to speak to a lawyer, the person under arrest must tell the officer that they wish to exercise that right: they must tell the officer that they want to speak to a lawyer.

Once an individual advises they wish to exercise a right, the police must provide a reasonable opportunity to exercise the right, except in urgent or dangerous circumstances. This means that once an individual asks to speak to a lawyer, the police must make reasonable attempts to allow her that conversation.

Many people don’t have a lawyer on call, and don’t know any criminal lawyers. To remedy this situation, police officers often have a list of lawyers who practice criminal law in their jurisdiction, or offer to call an on-call duty counsel to provide free advice. It’s important to note, however, that if an accused wants to contact a specific lawyer, police must make reasonable efforts to find and contact that lawyer on the accused’s behalf. The arrested person is not limited to speaking only with the lawyers on a list, or duty counsel.

Sometimes, people call the first lawyer they can get a hold of, because they cannot research lawyers at the police station. It is important to know that an accused person is not obligated to continue to retain the same lawyer they spoke with at the police station: they should find a lawyer they are comfortable with.

Courts have often reiterated the importance of the right to counsel. If the court does not believe the police respected an individual’s right to counsel, the charges can be dismissed on that basis. If you were not allowed to call your lawyer of choice, contact Celine Dostaler today to discuss your case. Celine Dostaler if an Ottawa criminal lawyer that has successfully defended individuals whose rights to counsel of choice was denied by the police.

Only One Phone Call

American television often portrays an accused person asking for their lawyer to be present during a police interview. But what are our rights as Canadians when arrested and interviewed by the police?

In Canada, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides us with our rights. You do not have the right to have their lawyer present when they are speaking to police. Instead, you have a right to a phone call to a criminal defence lawyer.

What is this right to speak to a lawyer? When an individual is accused of a crime, she is advised that they have the right to speak to a lawyer or to Duty Counsel. If the individual chooses to speak to a lawyer, they are provided with a list of lawyers and that person must choose one. That person chooses a lawyer based off a list of names, without knowing anything about that person. The lawyer provides advice regarding the charges and what to do next, and the individual is then brought to the interview room and asked questions by the police.

The accused only has the right to contact the lawyer once, with one phone call, before the interview. However, if there is a change in jeopardy (for example the police decide to charge the accused with more offences), she will have the right to speak to a lawyer again.

The first contact with a lawyer at the police station does not require the accused to hire that lawyer. In fact, it is best to do research on your lawyer before you hire someone.

It is important to have trust and faith in your lawyer. Your lawyer will be there to help you navigate the criminal justice system. Your lawyer should help you understand what the charges are, understand what the next steps for you will be, explain what is happening and represent your interests. Although your lawyer knows the law and the processes, they should not tell you what to do: your lawyer should help you make the right decision for you, by providing you with the pros and cons, and results of each option.