Raising a child is challenging, especially as your child gets older and begins doing more on their own. When your child is out with friends, you likely can’t help worrying about what they are doing and hope they are safe.
Often, the last person you want to hear from when your child is out is a police officer. The wave of relief you feel when you learn your child is safe might quickly be replaced by fear if you learn they have been arrested.
Massachusetts law states that a parent must be notified when their child is arrested. The child is typically released back into the care and custody of the parent unless there is a reason to keep them detained.
Shoplifting is a more serious charge than you may think
Shoplifting is known as one of the most common crimes committed by juveniles. Although it may be viewed as a minor crime, it can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony and comes with serious penalties.
However, if the crime is committed by a minor, the exact consequences depend on many different factors.
Your child’s age
The first is whether your child is 17 or younger. If they are under 17, they will be tried in juvenile court. However, if they are 17, they could be tried as an adult.
Another factor is the value of the merchandise that was stolen. Generally, if the value of the merchandise stolen was less than $250, your child could be required to pay restitution and court costs, after which the charge could be dismissed. The penalties could increase if the value of the stolen merchandise was higher.
In addition to paying fines and costs, your child could receive pretrial probation. This involves being placed on probation without pleading to anything in court.
Under pretrial probation, the shoplifting charge is dismissed if the child successfully complies with the terms of probation.
Continuance without a finding
There is also a chance they could receive a continuance without a finding. This means that they admit that there are enough facts to find them guilty but they are not found guilty by the court.
As with pretrial probation, the case is continued for a time and your child must comply with certain terms. The case is dismissed at the end of the continuance period if they fulfill all the terms of their probation.
The law does permit more serious penalties, such as a conviction or even jail time. However, these penalties are extremely rare if this is your child’s first offense and they have no prior criminal record.
The criminal process in Massachusetts can be complex and confusing. Your child has rights that must be protected, since once they are involved in the criminal system it can be difficult to get out of it. One simple mistake could cost plenty and impact their future.
Knowing how to negotiate and advocate on behalf of your child can make a difference in the ultimate outcome. Having guidance through the process with someone experienced with the juvenile justice system is crucial.