Shoplifting, or taking a low-value item from a retail store, seems like a fairly small offense. If your child was arrested for shoplifting, you may be tempted to downplay it. You may even think it's a good idea for your child to accept a plea bargain and the consequences like restitution and community service that may go along with it.
That may be a mistake that could impact your child's future. You may see the process as a learning experience where your child faces the consequences for his or her actions, but those consequences could be far-reaching -- and frankly, out of proportion for the offense.
Avoiding a Criminal Conviction
Taking a plea bargain that involves a fine -- which is common in many states -- could result in your child receiving a permanent criminal conviction for theft. In a worst-case scenario, this conviction could mean that your child:
- will not be admitted to a college or other higher education program
- can be barred from some fields of employment
- may not be able to serve in the military
- can have trouble renting or buying a home
- could have his or her credit score impacted, resulting in everything from higher interest rates to higher costs for insurance
If the shoplifting incident involved merchandise worth a certain amount, often more than $500, the conviction may be more than a misdemeanor. It could be considered a felony and is more likely to cause these issues.
A criminal lawyer can represent your child and can often get the charges reduced or dropped.
What if the Store Didn't Call the Police?
In some cases, especially where juveniles are involved, a retail store will detain a shoplifter and assess a punishment without getting law enforcement involved. This may include a ban from the store (permanently or for a period of a year or two) and a civil fine.
Do you still need an attorney? It may be a smart idea to consult with one, because the store could still decide to press charges. What's more likely is that they will send demanding letters requesting payment of a larger fine.
Having a knowledgeable lawyer advise you on how to handle these kinds of demands and review any paperwork that you or your child were asked to sign can help you know whether you really do owe payment of a fine. The lawyer can also communicate with the store on your behalf; having a legal representative can often make stores stop threatening any further legal action. Visit http://www.anggelisandgordon.com for more information.