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Lutins & Pilgreen, PC - Family, Criminal law
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Shoplifting disasters: What to do when your child steals

You were fine with your child going to the mall with their friends. After all, they’re getting to an age where they deserve more independence.

Unfortunately, the friends you thought they were going to see were not the friends they met up with. Instead, they were hanging out with a group that you knew was previously in trouble for shoplifting, using drugs and getting involved in criminal activity. At such a young age, you know that some teenagers get in trouble, but you tried to shield your child by explaining why they shouldn’t be friends with these people. Unfortunately, that discussion fell on deaf ears, and you received a call stating that your child was caught shoplifting a very expensive piece of jewelry.

Shoplifting has the potential to be a serious crime

When you think of shoplifting, it probably brings to mind images of teens stealing a shirt or young children grabbing a piece of candy off a shelf. Unfortunately, the reality is much more serious. Shoplifting is a type of larceny and can lead to significant penalties.

If someone steals less than $500 worth of merchandise, then the charge would be for petit larceny. This is punished with up to a year in prison. For items valued at $500 or more, it’s grand larceny.

Petit larceny is a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia, and grand larceny is a felony. Grand larceny can be punished with up to 20 years imprisonment, which is why it’s necessary to take the charges seriously.

On top of imprisonment, you can be asked to pay civil damages to the store owner who was stolen from. They are able to sue for twice the amount of any unpaid retail merchandise. If you still have the property and could return it to be sold, then there is a cap of $350 on the amount the store owner can sue for (but there may be other fees they can seek from you).

Your child is a minor, so the reality is that kids do make mistakes. It’s smart to work with a defense attorney on the case, because these charges are significant and can have lasting consequences. If this is a first-time offense, there may be good defenses or the ability to seek a reduced sentence, so that your child is penalized but doesn’t suffer in the long term. A solid defense is a necessity, no matter how old the defendant is.

J. Emmette Pilgreen IV
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