If you discover that your teen is stealing, it is important to confront them before taking any further action. If you *suspect* your teen is stealing (e.g., you have no witnesses or tangible proof), it is important that you approach the situation calmly and rationally- and do not accuse your teen of anything. Allow your teen to explain their side of things before you react. If they confess to stealing, it is important that you are clear in the position that you will not tolerate this type of behavior. Experts suggest a great way to dissuade your teen from stealing again is to escort your teen back to the store with the stolen merchandise and have them apologize and explain themselves to store security or management.
If your teen has already been caught in the act by store personnel, his or her options may not be that great. Each store determines its own rules about how to handle shoplifters. Some teens may be let off with a warning, while others may be banned from the store, and some may even be formally charged and prosecuted in compliance with local laws. If your teen is arrested and prosecuted, the value of the merchandise they have stolen will greatly determine the amount of trouble your teen may find themselves in. If the merchandise or money your teen has stolen is worth less than $400, this is considered petty theft. Petty theft is punishable by fine and up to six months in prison. If the value is over $400, your teen can be sentenced to up to a year in prison, and can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. The danger in your teen being charged with a felony is that this will stay on your teens permanent record, unless your teen is deemed by the court to be a minor and his or her record is sealed when your teen turns 18.
A felony on your teen’s permanent record can haunt your teen for the rest of his or her life. It can prevent your teen from college acceptance, future jobs, scholarships, apartments and can even play a role in future custody battles or adoption cases.