What are the differences?

Petty theft and grand larceny are basically the same offences. Both are defined as the unlawful taking and carrying away of the personal property of another person without their consent. The primary differences are the value, penalties, consequences, and reputation.

If you have been involved in a theft and aren’t sure where you stand, talk to a legal professional as soon as possible. In the meantime, read on to learn the ins and outs of how the Federal Laws treat theft in Canada.

According to Canada’s Criminal Code Section 322(1) 

Every one commits theft who fraudulently and without colour of right takes, or fraudulently and without colour of right converts to his use or to the use of another person, anything, whether animate or inanimate, with intent

  • (a) to deprive, temporarily or absolutely, the owner of it, or a person who has a special property or interest in it, of the thing or of his property or interest in it;
  • (b) to pledge it or deposit it as security;
  • (c) to part with it under a condition with respect to its return that the person who parts with it may be unable to perform; or
  • (d) to deal with it in such a manner that it cannot be restored in the condition in which it was at the time it was taken or converted.

The Crown Prosecutor Must Prove

In order to be found guilty of either petty theft or grand larceny in Canada, the Crown Prosecutor must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” each of the three following elements:

  • That you moved, started to move, caused something to be moved, that belonged to someone else;
  • That you moved the property with the intent to steal it without the owner’s consent, and;
  • The estimated value of the property


These days, cameras are everywhere, particularly in shopping areas. Camera footage can be very strong evidence of your guit. However, take heart, an excellent criminal attorney may still develop appropriate defences that can be used to help you walk away free of charges.

Some of the more viable defences are:

  • There is a conflict regarding the rightful owner of the property.
  • You were high on drugs, medication or intoxicated and didn’t realize what you were doing.
  • You had intended to return the property.
  • You were pushed into taking something by someone who set you up. (Entrapment)

Petty Theft Penalties vs. Grand Larceny

In Canada, there are two categories regarding theft: Over $5,000 and theft under $5,000. Theft that is under $5,000 is considered petty, although the crime will be taken very seriously by the Crown. Even if you are a first-time offender and the value of the stolen item is low, you may still end up with a criminal record.

If the theft is over $5,000, it is considered more serious and is an indictable offence that could put you in prison for up to 10 years.

If you are convicted in Canada, there are different sentences that might be used. The sentence is based on the specific situation and the surrounding circumstances. For example, the court might consider:

  • The value of the goods
  • Pre-existing criminal record
  • Stealing from an employer
  • The level of trust that was breached

If you have a previous criminal record, and current theft charges, the sentence is likely to be more severe. In basic terms, Canada’s Criminal Code grants up to two years in prison for thefts under $5,000. For grand larceny theft over $5,000, the Code allows up to 10 years of prison time.

Long Term Consequences

Whether you wind up with a summary or indictable offence, there are consequences that may follow you for the rest of your life. The following areas can be problematic as you go forward in life: loans, employment, deportation (if not a citizen), and travel, among other stressful life-altering repercussions. 

The best way to move forward is without a criminal conviction and the best way to avoid a criminal record is to discuss your case with expert criminal attorneys.

Jaswal & Krueger

If you, a friend, or a family member has been involved in petty theft or grand larceny, contact us immediately. We are criminal defence lawyers who will gladly defend you against any criminal charges. Our first consultation is free, so give us a call at 604-585-8898 or contact us here!


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