Criminal charges based on theft by an employee from an employer are treated differently than other theft charges because of the special relationship that exists between an employee and employer. Employees are in a position of trust to their employer.
Theft from an employer is considered a serious offence because the employee’s criminal conduct is breaching that position of trust. This violation of trust heightens the seriousness of the offence compared to theft from a stranger third party. The ongoing relationship between an employee and employer allows the employer to trust and depend on employees. The breach of that trust is aggravating.
Theft from an employer is generally considered a more serious criminal offence than other types of theft.
What charges will be laid?
There are no special offences in the Criminal Code for theft from an employer. Charges are generally brought under one of the following sections of the Code:
Theft under/over $5,000
Fraud under/over $5,000
Possession of Stolen Property
Even though there are no special charges for employee theft, the circumstances of the employee and employer relationship will still impact how the charges proceed.
How does theft from an employer impact the criminal process?
Employee theft can be relevant at all stages of the criminal process. It is an important circumstance that police, Crowns and other criminal justice officials will often taken into consideration when laying charges, screening charges or considering dispositions.
Laying of Charges by Police
Theft from an employer will often be considered at the initial stage of laying charges. Police have a large amount of discretion when it comes (1) whether or not charges or laid and (2) what charges are laid.
There are a number of circumstances that police consider when laying criminal charges. Where theft is employer-related, police may note this aggravating circumstance when laying charges and it may impact the exercise of police discretion.
Screening of Charges by the Crown
When new criminal charges are laid, the Crown will often screen the charges before an individual’s first court appearance. Screening allows the Crown to take a initial position on what penalties or consequences they think are appropriate.
Again, there are a number of circumstances the Crown considers when screening charges. Where theft is employer-related, the Crown may note this aggravating circumstance, which may impact the Crown’s initial position on how the charge should proceed. Generally, the Crown will consider charges involving theft from an employer to be serious charges.
The Crown will also decide at some point whether they are proceeding with the charge summarily or by indictment. Penalties for theft by indictment are much more significant than summary charges. Given the sensitive nature of employee theft, it is possible for the Crown to proceed by indictment.
All criminal charges are resolved, either through trial or by a resolution agreement between the Crown and defence. With the disposition of theft charges, other parties in the criminal justice system are often included in the resolution stage, including the Direct Accountability Office and Probation.
Theft in the employer context may affect the willingness and/or ability of the Direct Accountability Office and Probation to be involved in the disposition of criminal charges. Given the serious nature of employee theft, dispositions through Direct Accountability may not be available.
What other consequences can result from a charge of employee theft?
In basically all cases, you will be terminated from your position. However, consequences do not stop there. If criminal charges are laid against you, there are number of other potential punishments you may face, including:
A criminal record.
Difficulty travelling abroad.
Inability to secure other employment.
Relationship problems with family and/or friends.
When should I consult with a lawyer?
Given the potential serious consequences of an employee theft charge at every stage of the criminal justice process, it may be difficult to know how you should handle your criminal charges. A lawyer who is knowledgeable about employee theft charges can help you identify your best approach at each stage of the criminal justice process. It is important to contact a lawyer as soon as you know about your employee theft charges to try and minimize the adverse consequences and penalties you will face.
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