*2023 Results: Approx. 99% of Mark Zinck's clients avoided a criminal record (conviction) for charges of theft, fraud, assault, mischief and threats.

Robbery Charges in Ontario under Section 344 of the Criminal Code of Canada

Robbery is a straight indictable (aka felony) offence in Canada. The maximum sentence for robbery in Canada is life in prison (with parole eligibility) meaning that no absolute or conditional discharge is available and therefore all accused found guilty will receive a criminal record (conviction). If a firearm is involved in the commission of the offence the mandatory minimum sentence is 4 years in prison.

Since being convicted of robbery will result in a guaranteed criminal record, sometimes a deal can be made with the Crown to drop the robbery charges and plead guilty to something else instead (theft, mischief, assault, etc.) that may not require the offender to serve a jail sentence or get a criminal record. In cases where the accused does not accept the Crown’s evidence that a robbery occurred, a trial will be held to determine whether the offence was committed or not.

Robbery is an aggressive form of theft whereby an individual uses violence or the threat of violence to steal from someone. Going into a store and stealing something is theft. If you tell the cashier to give you the item or you will beat them up, that’s robbery. The difference between a theft and a robbery charge is that simple.

Robbery codified in Section 343 of the Criminal Code, which reads:


343 Every one commits robbery who

(a) steals, and for the purpose of extorting whatever is stolen or to prevent or overcome resistance to the stealing, uses violence or threats of violence to a person or property;

(b) steals from any person and, at the time he steals or immediately before or immediately thereafter, wounds, beats, strikes or uses any personal violence to that person;

(c) assaults any person with intent to steal from him; or

(d) steals from any person while armed with an offensive weapon or imitation thereof.

Robbery charges are not just for convenience store heists, they often originate from everyday circumstances that may have gone too far, such as:

  1. Domestic violence incidents: Sometimes during an argument or matrimonial dispute items, which may be sentimental or monetarily valuable, are taken using force. The accused may be charged with robbery in addition to theft and assault.

  2. School incidents: Sometimes bullying or picking on someone goes too far. If a backpack, phone or something else ends up stolen after someone is roughed or beaten up, the police will normally charge the accused with robbery if the incident is reported. Those under age 18 will be charged as YCJA youths. If they are 18+ they are still facing a mandatory minimum criminal record if found guilty.

  3. Shoplifting gone too far: Sometimes a shoplifter is confronted in the act and reacts with force or threats. Their charges will be upgraded to robbery from a simple theft under which dramatically raises the potential consequences upon conviction.

  4. Civil property disputes: Sometimes there is a civil dispute over property that one party wants to recover, perhaps believing it to be their own. Feeling they have a right to possess or recover the property sometimes force or threats of force are used leading to robbery charges.

  5. Landlord and tenant disputes: These are also civil property disputes, but a landlord or tenant may take steps to recover or dispose of property in a forceful way causing the police to charge them with robbery.

  6. Workplace incidents: A disgruntled current or former employee may forcefully confront fellow co-workers, business partners, or their boss in attempting to recover property that they consider to be theirs (phone, hard drive, vehicle, etc.)
In a lot of these circumstances the accused truly believed they were the “rightful owner” and had a right to take action. Many of these disputes should have been handled in small claims court, but instead have escalated to the point where the police have gotten involved and unfortunately charged the accused with robbery.

While the accused may have realized they crossed the line or acted inappropriately out of anger they are often shocked when they research the seriousness of robbery charges. Unlike most offences in Canada, there is no leniency available if found guilty of robbery with regards to getting a criminal record.

The judge is forced by law to sentence the offender to a criminal record (no discharge) and to prison for 4 years at a minimum if a firearm is involved. Sometimes the charges can be dropped or reduced to something else without such a strict mandatory minimums.

Punishments and consequences of robbery charges if found guilty

If the charges stick, the absolute minimum sentence is a criminal record and 4 years in prison and a criminal record if a firearm is involved (armed robbery). The amount of jail time can increase dramatically in cases involving aggravating factors such as those involving firearms, significant injuries to the victim(s), a lengthy prior criminal record, and more.

The sentencing provisions for robbery are found in Section 344 (1) of the Criminal Code, which reads:


344 (1) Every person who commits robbery is guilty of an indictable offence and liable

(a) if a restricted firearm or prohibited firearm is used in the commission of the offence or if any firearm is used in the commission of the offence and the offence is committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with, a criminal organization, to imprisonment for life and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of

(ii) in the case of a second or subsequent offence, seven years;

(a.1) in any other case where a firearm is used in the commission of the offence, to imprisonment for life and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of four years; and

(b) in any other case, to imprisonment for life.

Those charged with any form of robbery should immediately hire a lawyer to engage the Crown Attorney and begin working on their case. Whether the charges originate from a domestic dispute, a schoolyard incident, or a property ownership disagreement, if the accused is an adult the minimum sentence is still 4 years.

Robbery charges often do not take the form of someone holding up a gas station with a gun in the middle of the night. Those charged are often normal people without prior criminal records who typically do not engage in criminal activities. They face the same minimum punishments as the career criminal who indulges in a “typical criminal lifestyle”.

Unlike “career criminals”, first offence robbery accused usually have never been to jail before and do not already have a criminal record. They often have a normal job or in school. Some may also be immigrants to Canada and facing deportation by IRCC if they are convicted.

Robbery charges and IRCC immigration applications and potential deportation

Canada, and Ontario in particular, has a large percentage of the population in the immigration system. If the person charged with robbery is not a Canadian citizen they will most certainly be deported and determined inadmissible to Canada if convicted of a robbery. The mandatory minimum 4 year prison sentence far exceeds the 6 month exception IRCC uses.

Robbery is not a summary offence, but a straight indictable one that normally results in deportation upon the completion of serving the prison sentence imposed by the court. Some immigrants charged with robbery may have been confused about how the legal system works in Canada and acting in a way that is considered to be acceptable behaviour in their country of origin.

It is easier than most people think to be charged with robbery in Canada. Many accused are surprised by the charges.

Just like any other offence those charged with robbery will ultimately receive a court date. Given the serious nature of the charge many will be held for bail and released on a Form 11 Release Order with conditions not to attend at a certain place or communicate with the alleged victim(s). Others may be released via a Form 10 Undertaking at the police station without being held for bail.

Co-accused robbery charges

Sometimes people are charged as co-accused for being with someone else who committed a robbery. While the accused may not have been the one to actually steal the property or use force (or the threat of force) to do so, if they were there when it happened they may be charged too. In Canada those who participate or aid and abet a criminal offence are also considered to be guilty of it.

If you are with someone who is stealing or with them when they forcefully go to retrieve personal property in someone else’s possession, you will likely also be charged with robbery as a co-accused simply for being there. Standing there watching it happen may lead the police and ultimately the court to conclude you participated in the crime and therefore are equally liable for it.

YCJA Youth Robbery Charges

Co-accused robbery charges happen in both adult and YCJA youth cases where sometimes a group of people are all co-accused and charged accordingly. In cases involving children, those who are 18+ will be charged as adults and subject to the minimum 4 years in prison + a criminal record whereas the youths under 18 will have other sentencing options available (including possibly no adult criminal record).

Domestic or Intimate Partner Violence (DV or IPV) Robbery Charges

In domestic violence robbery cases the accused may think that what happened is not a crime but something to be handled by “the family”. Once the police are involved they learn the hard way that in Ontario police are bound to press charges when evidence is received that a DV crime occurred. If the dispute or fight involved property robbery charges may be laid in addition to the other domestic crimes (assault, theft, mischief, etc).

Anyone charged with robbery should hire a criminal defence lawyer immediately

It goes without saying that anyone charged with robbery should act immediately to hire a defence lawyer to engage with the Crown and try to get the charges dropped or reduced down to something less. Many cases will have to go to trial to determine if the accused is innocent or guilty.

Even if the defendant has an excellent reason or excuse for committing the crime, and has no prior history of criminal behaviour, they are still going to be sentenced to a permanent criminal record if they are found guilty of robbery and a minimum of 4 years in prison if a firearm is involved. Since there is simply no lenient sentence available for robbery convictions in Canada, many first time offenders will be reluctant to plead guilty to robbery given the guaranteed harsh punishments attached to a conviction.

If you are someone you know has been charged with robbery in Ontario give us a call today for a free no obligation consultation.

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*2023 Results: the percentage of 99% of clients avoiding a criminal record (conviction) stated on this page is based solely on Lawyer Mark Zinck's personal representation of approximately 2000 criminal defence case clients as of the year 2023. Past results are not necessarily an indication of future results.


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   Criminal Information:

   We provide:
  • Flat fee pricing
  • 99%+ non-conviction success rate
  • U.S. travel advice and information
  • Help with related immigration/IRCC issues
  • Employment background check advice and services
  • Fingerprints and records destruction services
  • A clear goal of getting the charges dropped without a trial
  • Vulnerable Sector records suppression help
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  • Experienced, focused counsel