Teen Shoplifting: Causes and Consequences

What to Do if Your Teen Was Caught Shoplifting

Teen shoplifting accounts for approximately fifty percent of all shoplifting cases in the United States. Though teen shoplifting accounts for the majority of theft crimes, teens steal only one-third of what adults do Teen shoplifting is defined as carrying, moving, concealing, or manipulating products or goods in or from a place of business with the intention of not paying the full price for the item.

According the the US Dept. of Justice, shoplifting is the most common property crime in the United States. Every day, over 500,000 shoplifting incidents occur, with $13 billion in merchandise stolen. It is estimated that 10% of the population in the United States is a shoplifter.

When a person under the age of 18 commits a crime, he or she is usually dealt with through the juvenile justice system rather than the criminal justice system. The juvenile system has its own set of rules, courts, and prosecutors.

How do you deal with a teen who is shoplifting?

There are several factors that may impel a teenager to steal something from a commercial business. When younger children take something from a store they may do so because they do not yet understand the concept of money and the implications of taking something from someone without compensating them for it. They may also lack self-control. Teen shoplifting offenders have developed an understanding of money, stealing, and its implications, yet choose to steal for other reasons.

Some teens shoplift because of the thrill involved in taking something that they did not rightfully pay for. Teen shoplifting can also be the product of peer pressure. Some teens think that they can get away with teen shoplifting or that stealing something isn’t a big deal. Some teens commit theft out of defiance and rebelliousness. In more complex cases teen shoplifting may be committed as a cry for help, or as a statement of anger for an unrelated life situation. For some, teen shoplifting may be a cry for help or attention.

State Laws

Shoplifting is a type of theft that is also referred to as larceny. Many states categorize theft as grand or petty (the latter involves stealing something worth less than a certain amount, usually $500 or less). Shoplifting is also classified as petty theft from a retail establishment in some states.

Teen shoplifting is a crime that can be prosecuted in the criminal justice system. Every state has created its own laws which govern the consequences of teen shoplifting. In most states, the punishment for shoplifting depends on the value of the goods that were stolen and whether or not a person has committed teen shoplifting in the past. Many store owners will prosecute teen shoplifting to the full extent of the law. When teen shoplifting occurs, the teen must return the stolen goods, parents are usually called, and legal consequences may result.

Misdemeanor or Felony

When a person steals something with a value that is less than $300 to $500, the teen shoplifting crime is usually charged as a petty theft misdemeanor. When teen shoplifting involves the stealing of goods with a higher value or the crime is a repeat offense, they may be charged with a felony. The penalties for teen shoplifting can include punitive fines, community service, and sometimes jail time. A business owner or law enforcement official must have reasonable cause to suspect that a person has committed teen shoplifting in order to detain an alleged offender.

Teenage Shoplifting Consequences

A court may order a juvenile to pay the property owner restitution for the value of the shoplifted merchandise. If the teen has a job, the court may order him or her to keep working until the restitution is paid. If the teen is of legal working age but does not have a job, the court may order that the juvenile find employment and work to repay the restitution money.

It can be beneficial for adults to communicate with teen shoplifting offenders about the reasons and legal consequences of their actions and the implications of teen shoplifting on society. Adult and teen shoplifting cost businesses sixteen billion dollars annually. One-third of all new businesses fail because of shoplifting. Each US family pays $300 per year to subsidize the cost of adult and teen shoplifting. Repeat teen shoplifting offenders may require more extensive help in order to stop committing teen shoplifting crimes.

To learn more about teen shoplifting, you may wish to contact a qualified and professional attorney who can advise you of your legal rights and options.

Shoplifting Laws

Shoplifting laws are created and implemented by individual states and local jurisdictions and may result in huge fines, jail time, community service, or more severe punishments for perpetrators. Shoplifting laws and penalties typically depend on a number of factors in the case, which may include the accused individual’s background and criminal history, the value of the goods stolen, the place in which the crime occurred, and other specifics. Business owners and law enforcement officials will often pursue shoplifting violations to the full extent of the law.

In severe shoplifting cases, or if the teen is a repeat offender, the court may sentence him or her to a juvenile detention facility, weekend detention program, or boot-camp-style program. If the court determines that the juvenile’s living environment is unsafe or has contributed to the teen’s delinquency, the court may place the teen in a foster home or another state facility that cares for needy or neglected children.


It is estimated by law enforcement that approximately ninety percent of the US population will commit the crime of shoplifting at some point in their lives. Adolescents account for one-half of all shoplifting cases, though value-wise, this population steals one-third of what adults steal. Shoplifting causes one-third of all new businesses to fail. Businesses lose sixteen billion dollars annually as a result of shoplifting losses. Each family in the United States pays an extra three hundred dollars for goods and services to subsidize losses from shoplifting. Shoplifting is a crime that affects all consumers in one way or another.

Have you been accused of shoplifting?

If you have been accused of shoplifting, it is important to seek the immediate assistance of an experienced criminal law lawyer who can inform you of the shoplifting laws in your state, protect your legal rights, and maximize your interests. Contact a qualified attorney near you.


Teen shoplifting is a real problem that many teenagers face and should not be taken lightly. It can lead to severe consequences, whether it’s legal or psychological. Parents should talk to their teens about the risks and consequences associated with shoplifting, and help them find alternative ways to cope with peer pressure or anxiety. Schools can also play an important role by providing resources and creating awareness among students about the potential risks of shoplifting.