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What Every Parent Needs to Know About Teen Shoplifting

December 18, 2020

No parent likes to think that their child would steal anything, but teen shoplifting is common. In addition, there is no typical teen shoplifter. Shoplifting is seen in all demographics, so no parent should rule out the possibility that their child could commit this type of crime. 

If your teen is arrested for shoplifting, it’s important to take the charge seriously and consult with a lawyer right away. Choose a criminal defense attorney with experience in the juvenile criminal justice system, which works with a different set of rules and standards. 

There is no single reason that teens shoplift. 

Teens are notoriously tight-lipped, and experts who have interviewed teens after shoplifting arrests report that they are usually not able to explain exactly why they stole. However, there are a few common threads. One trend is that necessity is rarely the reason that teens shoplift. Although some teens do take essentials that their families are unable to afford, most teens who shoplift take things they want to have, and in many cases, they take things that their families could afford and would be willing to buy for them if asked. 

Another trend is that many teens who shoplift were not planning to take something the first time. If teens get away with it once, they may then plan on returning to stores to shoplift, but the first time is usually a spur of the moment decision propelled by peer pressure or a simple desire to see what it is like to break the law. 

Shoplifting charges are serious. 

Shoplifting may seem like a frivolous offense, but the consequences can be significant. When a juvenile is charged with shoplifting in Arizona, the value of the items stolen will determine if the charges are misdemeanors or felonies. Juveniles who are arrested for shoplifting multiple times are likely to face increasingly severe consequences. Even if you believe the charges against your teen will be minor or even dismissed, it’s essential that you hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to make sure your teen’s rights are protected. 

Another potential outcome of shoplifting charges against a minor is a civil lawsuit. In Arizona, merchants are allowed to sue the parents of teens who shoplift. They can sue for the value of the stolen merchandise plus an additional penalty, up to a total of $10,000. 

Parents can help teens avoid this costly mistake. 

Even though you have taught your child that stealing is wrong, experts recommend that parents talk to their teens about shoplifting in the same way that they would talk to them about drugs or alcohol. Let your teen know what your expectations are and make sure he or she understands the severity of the consequences that shoplifting can incur. Talking to teens about ways to remove themselves from situations in which friends are pressuring them to shoplift is also helpful. 

Parents should also be vigilant about looking for signs that their teens may be shoplifting. Keep an eye on your child’s clothes and belongings. Does your teen seem to suddenly have new clothes that you didn’t purchase? Does your teen have new electronics without a job to pay for them? If you see your teen with items you can’t explain, ask questions. Sometimes, knowing that you will ask about things is incentive enough for a teen to avoid shoplifting. 

If your teen is arrested, what you do next matters.

The first thing you should do is call an attorney and work through the details of what to expect from the case process. Involve your teen in the conversation, so that he or she understands what is ahead and what kind of punishment is possible. 

Throughout the case process, be sure to attend all court hearings and provide your teen’s attorney with any requested information as soon as possible. When you discuss your teen’s arrest with him or her, remain calm and approachable. Your teen will be more likely to withhold important information from you if you approach him or her in anger, which could have negative consequences for the outcome of the case. 

Dealing with the arrest of a teen is scary for parents and kids alike, but Janet Altschuler is here to help you through the process. As a criminal defense attorney in Tucson with extensive experience in the juvenile justice system, Ms. Altschuler can defend your teen and protect his or her rights. When you need a criminal lawyer, call our office at (520) 247-1789.