It is not uncommon for a minor to commit retail fraud (or shoplifting). The reasons for this include: peer pressure; greed; the feeling of invincibility; psychological reasons; etc.; etc. It is always upsetting for a parent to learn that their child got into trouble, and the range of emotions that a parent may feel may run from concern to anger to disappointment.
What to expect for you and your child when your child is facing a shoplifting allegation?
If your child was lucky, the store made a decision to not involve law enforcement. If law enforcement was contacted, how the case is handled depends upon the age of your child.
In Michigan, persons under the age of 17 years that are charged with retail fraud are treated as juvenile offenders. The juvenile court involved will usually be the court for the county where the juvenile resides. Juvenile offenders have the same constitutional rights as adult offenders when it comes to trial rights. However, a juvenile that is convicted of an offense is at the mercy of the referee or Judge presiding over his or her case. The emphasis for juvenile offenders is rehabilitation. What is rehabilitation in the case of your child may be subject to interpretation. In general, the better your child is doing in the community and at home, the greater the likelihood that he or she will not be detained.
In Michigan, persons that are 17 years old and older that are charged with retail fraud are treated as adults. Retail fraud cases for adults all are filed at the district court that has jurisdiction for where the offense allegedly occurred. However, retail fraud can be charged as either a local ordinance misdemeanor (93 day maximum sentence), a State misdemeanor offense (93 day or 1 year maximum sentence), or a state felony offense (5 year maximum sentence) depending upon the amount allegedly stolen/allegedly attempted to be stolen , the perceived intent of the Defendant, and the Defendant’s prior record. Felony offenses are transferred to the Circuit Court with jurisdiction over the place where the offense allegedly occurred if probable cause is determined at a preliminary examination or a waiver of the same.
Juvenile and adult charges are usually resolved through either a plea or a trial. In many cases, plea bargains or sentencing agreements can be reached to reduce the offense to something less serious or to keep the offense from appearing as a public record of conviction. A conviction for a theft offense such as retail fraud can have a number of negative consequences, including: employment issues; school issues; financial aid issues; immigration issues (for persons that are not citizens); travel issues; inability/impediment to pursue a professional license; etc.
The store also has the ability to seek civil damages for the alleged theft. Many stores send out a demand letter seeking payment of $200 (two hundred dollars) to resolve the civil claim. Most persons served with the civil demand elect to pay it to avoid harassment and the potential expense of litigation.
Having a child, especially one who is in trouble is stressful. It can seem a helpless feeling trying to protect a child from potential harm.
How should a parent proceed when a child is charged with shoplifting?
What is in your child’s best interest is to have experienced criminal law legal representation, such as attorney Daniel Hilf. Having experienced legal representation can help in a number of ways, including: obtaining a reasonable bond; having someone to research and pursue any possible defenses; having a seasoned lawyer negotiate the best resolution (when appropriate); having someone to advocate for the best possible sentence from the court (when a conviction occurs); reducing the overall stress of facing this difficult situation. When it comes to your child’s future, it is best to not take unnecessary chances. Theft convictions can carry a lifetime of negative consequences. It is important for minors to have every opportunity to be successful in life, and the expense of an excellent lawyer is a small expense when considering the large picture.