The penalties for shoplifting can be dramatically different case-to-case. Find out what happens if you get caught shoplifting under 18.
Let’s talk about what happens if you get caught shoplifting under 18 …
Stealing from a store is a crime called shoplifting.
If you are caught shoplifting under the age of 18, the store or merchant is allowed to detain you for a reasonable amount of time while they investigate your intent to steal. If they discover you have hidden product in your purse or backpack, they will likely call your parents and the police.
If charged, the store is allowed to sue you for attempting to steal their products and your case will proceed to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), where you will receive your
Though the crime of shoplifting is the same regardless of your age, the Juvenile Justice system handles people under the age of 18 in an effort to teach and correct the behavior as opposed to punishing the individual for it.
So what actually happens is you’re caught?
Today, we’re taking a closer look at what happens if you get caught shoplifting under 18 …
What Happens If You Get Caught Shoplifting Under 18
The Juvenile Court penalizes minors charged with shoplifting in a variety of ways depending on the circumstances. For example, if you don’t have a criminal record and this is your first time shoplifting, the court may release you to your parents or legal guardians after a stern warning.
What happens if you get caught shoplifting under 18 and you already have a criminal record?
If you have a criminal record or have been charged with shoplifting in the past, the court may deliver more severe penalties.
Some of the more common shoplifting consequences for minors include the following:
- Release to Parents
- Confinement or Placement
Young people, with a variety of motivations, sometimes try to take something from a store without paying for it.
You should learn the basic information about the crime known as shoplifting in case your child or another family member, or some other young person you know, attempts to take something illegally from a merchant and gets caught.
What Is Shoplifting?
Shoplifting is a crime covered by California Penal Code section 490.5 that gives merchants several privileges against anyone accused of petty theft of merchandise in their store or movie theater.
Merchandise is described as personal property that is capable of manual delivery, displayed, held, or offered in a retail establishment by a merchant. Similar privileges are provided to theater owners if a person brings a video recording device into the theater.
Most don’t think about what happens if you get caught shoplifting under 18 before stealing something from a store because they don’t understand the severity of the situation.
Sure, it may not seem like a big deal to shoplift a small item, but it could hurt your chances of getting a job in the future among other things. This type of criminal activity seems like it’s a victimless crime, but it isn’t.
What Are the Merchant’s Rights?
The merchant can sue the parents of the minor for damages between $50 and $500 plus costs. The merchant can also sue the minor for the retail value of the merchandise if it is no longer in good (marketable) condition.
The merchant may also detain the minor for a reasonable period of time to investigate the situation if he or she has probable cause to believe the person has unlawfully taken or is about to take merchandise from the premises. The same holds true for movie theater owners suspecting a patron has operated a video recording device on the premises.
If the person being detained refuses to produce the item or recording, the merchant may conduct a reasonable and limited search, and here, there is something you should know about searches.
The merchant may search a person’s packages, shopping bags, handbags, or other property in the immediate possession of that person. But the merchant may not search the person’s clothing.
As for the use of force, in the process of restraining the suspected shoplifter, the merchant or theater owner (or library employee) may use reasonable and nondeadly force considered necessary to prevent the suspect from escaping or prevent the loss of the merchandise as well as protect himself.
What Are the Shoplifter Rights at the Scene?
The best word of advice is, don’t shoplift. But if you do, and you are detained, what are your rights? What should be your response? A good suggestion is to not resist the detention with any force because this could lead to other, more serious, charges against you. Plus, if you resist an owner or manager’s detention, other employees may try to assist him or her, and you may get hurt in the process.
On the other hand, if the merchant is using an unreasonable amount of force against you (and you are not resisting), then you have the legal privilege of defending yourself. The key word is “reasonable” for each party’s actions.
How should you handle the process of being searched? Do you allow it or do you refuse to allow it? How far would you allow it to go? These are important questions. And you should carefully weigh the possible answers.
If you permit the search, and the merchant does not have probable cause to search you, you could be waiving your right to sue later for infringement of your privacy rights. You may be able to sue only for detention.
If the merchant does have probable cause, the best choice is to allow the search of your possessions. But here is an important distinction. Do not allow a search of your clothing because clothing worn is not within the scope permitted for a search. Do not agree to the search of clothing, but acquiesce to it while you protest it clearly. If you did not take anything but were detained and searched, you may decide later to sue the merchant.
On the other hand, if you did take an item, and you permit the search, finding the item will help make the case against you. If you took the item, and you refuse the search, this could be taken as having a guilty state of mind.
A lawyer could try to explain your refusal as a normal reaction to resist the invasion of personal privacy, a common feeling for all of us.
If the item in question is not found, you have not admitted to taking anything, and there are no witnesses to prove any theft attempt, then the merchant will likely stop the detainment. There would be no cause for prosecution.
But further advice here is, if you did attempt to steal something and were detained, do not leave the premises with the merchandise. If the item is found on the premises, there would be a legal defense possible to claims of theft.
What Happens After the Detention?
You are detained and searched and then released by the merchant or theater owner. Then, what happens? You may receive civil demand letters from a law firm that claims to be authorized to collect civil damages for Penal Code 490.5. If so, contact your own lawyer.
Some of these demand letters are illegal because they threaten jail time or criminal prosecution and attempt to extort payment from you. These letters could be criminal acts in themselves and subject to legal action against the firm creating them. If you pay the demand, this decision could be used against you in a criminal prosecution. An attorney could help advise you as to the best decision for you.
If you are arrested by the police, also seek the advice of legal counsel. There can be serious consequences. Actions against you can range from service programs to fines to jail time.
The penalties for shoplifting for juveniles, especially for first-time offenders, are designed to teach and correct rather than punish. Juvenile courts have a wide latitude in determining the appropriate penalty in each case.
In first-time cases, the court may choose nothing more than to release the minor to a parent or guardian along with a stern warning about any future conviction,
The court may order restitution to the store or theater owner for the value of the shoplifted property. The court may order the minor to keep working to pay off the amount owed, or if the minor has no job, he can be ordered to find employment to pay what is owed.
Probation is another possibility with the court ordering the juvenile to perform specific duties like staying in school, obeying reasonable orders of parents or guardians and school officials. The probation may also require the juvenile to report to a probation officer during the period of probation, usually about six months.
Similar to probation, diversion programs can be recommended for shoplifting juveniles. These programs impose certain requirements on the juvenile like participating in educational programs, performing community service, maintaining a certain grade-point-average (GPA), or some similar requirement.
Counseling is sometimes ordered for the juvenile offender and is provided through state-run services. The court could also require family counseling to include the parents or guardians.