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 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?

Several factors may compel 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 of taking something they did not rightfully pay for. Teen shoplifting can also be the product of peer pressure. Some teens think they can get away with 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 stolen goods and whether or not a person has committed teen shoplifting. 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.

Here’s a chart outlining the potential consequences of shoplifting in Texas based on the value of the stolen property:

Value of Stolen Property Classification Potential Consequences
Less than $100 Class C Misdemeanor Fine of up to $500
$100 – $750 Class B Misdemeanor Fine of up to $2,000 and/or imprisonment up to 180 days
$750 – $2,500 Class A Misdemeanor Fine of up to $4,000 and/or imprisonment up to 1 year
$2,500 – $30,000 State Jail Felony Fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment 180 days to 2 years
Over $30,000 or aggravating factors Felony Charges Higher fines and longer prison sentences, depending on the circumstances

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 stealing goods with a higher value or committing a repeat offense, they may be charged with a felony. The penalties for teen shoplifting 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 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 costs 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 to stop committing teen shoplifting crimes.

To learn more about teen shoplifting, you may 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 several factors in the case, including 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. The court may determine that the juvenile’s living environment is unsafe or has contributed to the teen’s delinquency. In that case, the court may place the teen in a foster home or another state facility that cares for needy or neglected children.

Juvenile court and shoplifting cases

It’s important to understand the legal consequences of shoplifting as a teenager. In most cases, teens who are caught shoplifting will be processed through the juvenile court system. The juvenile court operates differently from the adult court and is designed to focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment. However, this doesn’t mean that the consequences of shoplifting as a teenager are insignificant.

In juvenile court, the judge will consider a range of factors when deciding how to proceed with the case. This may include the age of the teen, prior criminal history, the value of the stolen items, and the circumstances surrounding the theft. Depending on these factors, the judge may order community service, attend counseling or therapy, or even probation. In more severe cases, the teen may be required to spend time in a juvenile detention center.


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.

Can shoplifting be expunged from a criminal record?

The expungement process varies from state to state, but it is generally possible to have a shoplifting conviction removed from your criminal record. However, it’s important to note that this is not an automatic process and usually requires a petition to the court.

The requirements for expungement can also vary, but they often include completing a probation period without any new criminal charges, paying any fines or restitution ordered by the court, and completing community service or other court-ordered programs.

It’s important to consult with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney in your state to determine your eligibility for expungement and to guide you through the process.

Remember that even if a shoplifting conviction is expunged from your record, it may still be visible to certain organizations or employers during a background check. It’s important, to be honest about your past convictions and to take responsibility for your actions in any situations where it may be relevant.

Preventing teen shoplifting

Preventing teen shoplifting is important not just for the legal and long-term consequences but also for teenagers’ moral and ethical development. Here are some tips and advice to help prevent teen shoplifting:

  1. Education: Parents, guardians, and educators should educate teens about the negative effects of shoplifting. They should teach them that it’s not just a crime but it’s also unethical and can have severe consequences.
  2. Good role models: Parents, guardians, and educators should be good role models. They should not engage in shoplifting or other criminal activities, as it can influence teenagers’ behavior.
  3. Create a positive environment: Teenagers should be encouraged to participate in positive activities such as sports, hobbies, volunteering, etc. This will help them feel good about themselves and reduce the temptation to shoplifting.
  4. Clear rules and consequences: Parents, guardians, and educators should set clear rules and consequences for shoplifting. Teenagers should know that shoplifting will not be tolerated, and there will be consequences if they engage in it.
  5. Surveillance: Retailers can install surveillance cameras and security personnel to prevent shoplifting. This will not only prevent teens from shoplifting but also other customers.

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 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.