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Shoplifting Consequences for Minors

Updated March 23, 2017

The crime of shoplifting is defined as removing merchandise from an establishment where it is displayed for sale while knowingly depriving another of such goods without paying the cost. While professional shoplifters account for most of the merchandise stolen, up to half of the shoplifting cases in this country are committed by minors.

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A person who has taken merchandise in most cases must be seen leaving the store without paying in order to be apprehended. At that point, a store detective or employee will detain the individual. The store management will contact the police, who will arrest the suspect and take her to police headquarters. She will be charged with theft, and the value of the stolen merchandise will determine the nature of the violation. Her photo will be taken, and she will be fingerprinted. Her fingerprints will go into AFIS, the national database, where they will remain for as long as she lives. If the suspect is a minor, she will be referred to juvenile authorities and released to a parent or guardian.


Juvenile court is the venue for cases of shoplifting by a minor. The judge can determine the penalty. Depending on the minor's past history, the value of the merchandise taken, and other factors, the judge may simply issue a warning or may impose an appropriate penalty.


Penalties for a minor convicted of shoplifting vary, according to the value of goods stolen and whether this is a first offence. Dollar limits will determine whether the offence is a misdemeanour, with relatively light penalties, or a felony, with more severe punishment. Penalties may include restitution, fines, counselling, community service or any combination of these. The convicted minor may be put on probation or sentenced to juvenile detention for up to a year. The owners of the store where the incident occurred may file a civil suit for damages. The minor will likely also be banned from the store where the shoplifting occurred.

Legal Advice

It is essential for the parents or guardians of a minor child charged with shoplifting to seek the advice of a lawyer to ensure that they know the child's rights and the pertinent laws of the state where the incident occurred. Parents of minors convicted of shoplifting can be held liable for money damages as well as court costs and the value of the stolen merchandise.

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About the Author

Kay Bosworth

As a long-time newspaper reporter and staff writer, Kay Bosworth covered real estate development and business for publications in northern New Jersey. Her extensive career included serving as editor of a business education magazine for the McGraw-Hill Book Company. The Kentucky native earned a BA from Transylvania University in Lexington.

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