When does "borrowing" something from someone else become a theft?
When Chantale is away, Nicolas decides to “borrow” the plasma TV, which they had bought together, for his new apartment. Is “borrowing” the TV a theft?
Yes, and Chantale could file a complaint with the police. The offence of theft is committed when a person takes a thing, without right, belonging to someone else.
It is a theft even if:
- The theft is not concealed (for example, if Nicolas leaves a note saying that he took the TV);
- The person does not succeed in leaving with the object (the mere fact of moving the object in order to steal it is sufficient);
- The thief is the owner of the stolen object (for example, when a person’s property is legally seized, it remains her property, but she does not have the right to get it from the warehouse);
- The thief is a co-owner of the stolen object. Although half of the object is owned by her, a person cannot deprive the other owner of the object; the object also belongs to the other owner!
The maximum sentence for theft is 10 years of imprisonment.
What is considered as fraud?
Fraud is committed when a person causes an economic loss to another person or endangers the economic interests of another person by using dishonest means or by lying.
The maximum sentence for fraud is 14 years of imprisonment.
What is “taking a motor vehicle without consent”?
It is an offence committed when a person takes a motor vehicle that does not belong to him without the owner’s consent. The person must also intend to drive or use the vehicle. The fact that a person is found in the vehicle, knowing that it was taken without the owner’s consent, is sufficient for the offence.
As such, Chantale could file a complaint against Nicolas. Without telling her, Nicolas took Chantale's sports car using the keys that she had given him for emergencies.
The maximum sentence for this offence is a fine of $5,000 and 6 months of imprisonment.
Is simply hiding or concealing something an offence?
The offence called “fraudulent concealment” is committed when, for a dishonest purpose, a person takes, removes, or hides something that does not belong to her.
Here is an example. Knowing that Nicolas really needs his toolbox for work, Chantale decides to hide it in the garden. Nicolas gets pretty annoyed when he can't find his tools; he has to rent other tools. Later on, Chantale confesses that she hid the toolbox. Nicolas files a complaint against Chantale for fraudulently concealing his tools.
The maximum sentence for this offence is 2 years of imprisonment.
What is mischief?
A person commits the offence of mischief when he voluntarily breaks or damages property belonging to another person. The offence can also be committed when a person prevents, interrupts, or hinders the legitimate use of a thing.
Nicolas is very angry; he takes a pair of scissors and visits the wardrobe of his ex. He shreds the nice dresses that he had given to her in the past. Can Nicolas be charged with an offence? Yes, because he committed a mischief.
Making something dangerous, ineffective, or useless is also mischief. For example, if Chantale decides to loosen the bolts on the front wheels of Nicolas’ motorcycle, she is committing mischief.
The maximum sentence for this offence is 10 years of imprisonment. If the mischief actually endangers the lives of people, the maximum sentence is life imprisonment.
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.