Is Your Home Safe this Holiday Season?

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

The holiday season is upon us and this means lots of Canadians will be travelling away from home. During the holidays, the potential for thefts and robberies increase. Each of us can reduce the risk to our homes and property from being victimized by eliminating the opportunity.

While you are away on vacation, its important to make your home appear inhabited. Here are a few suggestions to keep your home safer:

  • Reinforce your door locks;
  • Trim your trees;
  • Light up the night;
  • Install an alarm system;
  • Use timers to maintain normal lighting patterns;
  • Keep your travel plans off of social media;
  • Stop all mail delivery;
  • Arrange for a neighbour to cut the grass or shovel snow;
  • Cancel all deliveries during the time you will be away;
  • Maintain normal lighting patterns by using electronic timers;
  • Leave a radio on, with a timer if necessary, to simulate normal use;
  • Ask a neighbour to park in your driveway;
  • Arrange for neighbours to pick up flyers; and,
  • Lock your garage door.

Theft is a very broad category of legal offences found in the Criminal Code of Canada (“CC”). There are a number of other offences in the CC related to theft, such as:

  • Motor vehicle theft;
  • Breaking and entering;
  • Home invasion;
  • Theft while breaking and entering;
  • Unlawfully in a dwelling house; and,
  • Robbery.

WHAT IS THEFT?

The charge of theft has three components that the Crown (i.e. prosecutors) must prove:

  1. The accused took or converted the property;
  2. The accused did so without permission and without good faith belief that he/she had permission; and,
  3. The accused intended to do so.

The intent component is an important one so as to avoid charging individuals who accidentally or mistakenly take or use property that does not belong to them.

Punishment for theft depends upon the value of the stolen goods in question. A conviction for theft under $5,000 carries a maximum penalty of up to 2 years imprisonment. A conviction for theft over $5,000 carries a maximum penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment.

WHAT IS BREAKING AND ENTERING?

Breaking and entering charges will be laid in cases where an individual enters or trespasses onto private property with the intention of committing a criminal offence. A break and enter offence usually occurs when someone is attempting to steal property, but the charge can be laid without any theft or damage to property. In fact, walking through an open door has been found to constitute “breaking and entering”.

The most serious form of break and enter is a “home invasion”, which occurs when an accused breaks and enters into a property knowing that there are people present and is prepared to use force or violence against them. The fact that the accused knew that the property was occupied is an aggravating factor that can be used during sentencing and will attract higher penalties.

Breaking and entering is considered a serious offence and punishment can be severe, especially if it is committed in relation to a dwelling house. If the offence was committed in relation to a dwelling house the maximum penalty is imprisonment for life. If the offence was committed in relation to any place other than a dwelling house the maximum penalty is imprisonment not exceeding ten years for an indictable offence or an offence punishable on summary conviction (maximum fine of $5,000 or six months in jail or both).

WHAT IS ROBBERY?

The offence of robbery shares some of the same characteristics as theft, but includes the component of violence. Thus, charges of robbery can arise if during the course of a theft the individual uses violence, threats of violence, a weapon, or imitation weapon to obtain property.

Robbery is a serious charge and is always an indictable offence (i.e. the most serious offence), which means it involves the right of the accused to have a preliminary inquiry and a trial by judge and jury, if the accused wishes to.

There are a number of factors that could affect the severity of the penalties imposed upon a robbery conviction, including the nature and use of any weapons; the degree of violence used; the injuries suffered by the victim; the vulnerability of the victim; the value of the goods stolen; and, the offender’s prior criminal record. An individual accused of robbery could potentially face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment (in the case where a firearm is used).

If you have been charged with an offence against property, as described above, it is imperative to retain a criminal lawyer immediately. Please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We have a 24-hour phone service for your convenience.