Statistics around the United States show the majority of shoplifting incidents involved minors. It may seem like shoplifting is a minor infraction and no big deal since these big corporations have the resources and inventory to “stock up”, but certainly is not the case. The crime of shoplifting, whether from a giant department store or a small local shop, can sometimes lead to serious criminal charges. Even if you’re a minor, criminal laws for shoplifting apply.
Shoplifting laws vary by state but typically fall under larceny or theft crimes in the penal code section of state laws. Although a shoplifting charge is a type of theft charge, it can include specific requirements and punishments that set it apart from petty theft or grand theft.
Shoplifting generally includes intentionally taking items or property displayed for sale without paying for them. You are still stealing even if you don’t “rob” someone, but you just try to sneakily remove something from a store. “Nonpayment” can include more than just hiding the items or property and leaving the store without paying. Other examples that may qualify as not paying include: 1) Altering the price (switching price tags), 2) Combining items to avoid paying for each individually and 3) Charging the purchase to someone else without their permission
States have different ways of differentiating shoplifting from other types of larceny and theft charges, so you should check your state’s laws to learn what elements or requirements the state must prove to convict you of shoplifting.
If you’re caught and the store wants to press charges, some states allow the store to detain you until police officers or law enforcement arrive if “probable cause” exists to believe that you committed a crime.
The severity of the offense determines whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony and depends on the specifics of the crime. A shoplifting case against an adult is tried in criminal court, but the legal process for a minor typically takes place in juvenile court.
Shoplifting by a minor is considered an “act of delinquency” where proceedings take place in the juvenile justice system. Instead of a trial, minors attend an adjudication hearing to determine whether they committed the delinquent act. You will still be entitled to representation by a criminal defense lawyer.
Unlike the criminal justice system, where the focus is on punishing adults for a shoplifting conviction, the goal of juvenile court is to educate and reform a minor. Penalties can depend on whether it’s the first time you have been charged or if you are a repeat offender.
Juvenile courts often allow minors to participate in a diversion program for a first offense. This can include taking an educational course about shoplifting, participating in community service, regularly attending school, and maintaining a certain grade point average. For severe or felony shoplifting where an adult would likely be sentenced to jail time, the court could order placement in a juvenile detention facility or program.
If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer. SQ Attorneys can be reached at (425) 359-3791 and/or (206) 441-0900.