A call you never want to receive is one from a police officer informing you that your child has been arrested for shoplifting in Charlotte. If you get that telephone call, you need to take a deep breath and retain an experienced criminal defense attorney to defend your child against the charges they face. You also need to take immediate steps to protect your child’s rights to help them achieve the best possible outcome in their criminal case.
What Is Shoplifting in North Carolina?
Shoplifting is a larceny crime in our state. This offense is committed if someone takes property without the owner’s consent with the intent to deprive them of their property permanently. Your child could be charged with one of these categories of shoplifting:
- If they were caught with the goods in a store, they would be charged with concealment of goods.
- If they had already left the store when caught, they would be arrested for larceny of goods. This is a more severe crime than the concealment of goods.
Shoplifting will be charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor if the value of the merchandise is under $1,000 and as a Class H felony if the value is over $1,000.
Will Your Child Be Charged as a Juvenile or an Adult?
Your child will most likely be charged as a juvenile and have their case decided in juvenile court. Under the “Raise the Age” law, the juvenile court would have jurisdiction over your child’s case, even if they are 16 or 17 years old.
If they commit what would be considered a criminal offense if they were an adult, such as shoplifting, your child would not be charged with a crime. Instead, their behavior would be referred to as delinquent. Their court proceedings would be referred to as an adjudication hearing, not a trial.
What Rights Does Your Child Have After They Are Arrested?
Your child will have the same rights as adults if they are charged with a crime. You must understand these rights and help them exercise them. Here are the important rights you should know:
- Questioning by the police. Your child has the right not to be questioned by the police without a lawyer being present. They also have the right to have a parent with them when they are interrogated.
- Probable cause. The police must have probable cause to search your child.
- Right to remain silent. Under the Fifth Amendment, your child has the right to remain silent and not talk to law enforcement officers. It is crucial that they exercise this right because anything they say could be used against them.
- Charges. Your child has the right to know the crimes they are accused of committing.
- Attorney. Your child has a right to be represented by a lawyer in their juvenile court proceedings. A public defender would be appointed to represent them if they cannot afford an attorney. It is essential to retain an attorney for them because they may have strong defenses to the charges they face—even if they are guilty.
What Penalties Could Your Child Face?
The goal of the juvenile court system would be to rehabilitate your child rather than punish them. Depending on the circumstances surrounding their arrest, they could face these penalties:
- Release to parents. Your child could be released to you and given a stern warning by the judge.
- Fines. Your child could be ordered to pay fines and be given a firm deadline to pay them.
- Restitution. Your child could be ordered to pay restitution to the property owner for the value of the goods they stole.
- Probation. The court could place your child on probation. This option is more likely if they were charged with shoplifting as a felony.
- Counseling. Your child could be required to enter into counseling.
- Community service. The judge could order your child to perform a specific number of hours of community service.