Juveniles, or children aged 18 and younger, can face harsh consequences if charged with or accused of theft in Pennsylvania. If convicted, the penalties could be severe. Although they may not be as harsh as the penalties an adult may face, a conviction could devastate your child’s life for years to come.

What Makes a Juvenile Crime and How Are They Punished?

The juvenile court system in Pennsylvania may have jurisdiction over offenders until they are 21 years of age. The severity of the crime in question will determine whether your child should be placed in police custody or released to your custody. Whether your child has been released to your custody or is facing a juvenile court referral, you may want to enlist the services of a juvenile defense attorney for help.

Suppose police decide to refer your child to juvenile court. In that case, an intake officer with the juvenile court will determine whether your child’s offense should be handled informally, dismissed, or move forward with a formal petition.

Informal resolution of your child’s theft allegations will require that they appear before a juvenile judge or a probation officer, where they may be given a lecture on the importance of following the law and face other consequences, such as:

  • Court-ordered community service
  • Court-ordered mental health or group counseling
  • Restitution payments to victims in the case

What Is Theft?

Under Pennsylvania Criminal Code, Title 18, Chapter 39, theft, also commonly referred to as retail theft, can occur in some situations. Some of the more common instances in which your child might face theft charges include:

  • Charging friends and family less for goods or services as a retail employee
  • Using store merchandise without purchasing the product
  • Transferring merchandise without paying for it
  • Removing anti-theft tags with the intent to steal the item
  • Changing price tag prices to defraud the merchant

However, if your child was accused of entering an occupied structure or building with the intent to commit a crime such as theft, they could also be facing burglary charges in addition to the theft charges in question under Pennsylvania Statutes Title 18 Pa.C.S.A. Crimes and Offenses § 3502.

Your child’s case could be bumped up to adult court if the value of the product or services is grounds for a felony offense and your child is at least 14 years of age.

Why Is it Important to Reduce or Drop Juvenile Charges?

The penalties could be severe if your child is convicted of theft in PA. Some of the more common consequences associated with juvenile theft convictions include:

  • Probation
  • Community service
  • Restitution
  • Pretrial diversion program
  • Mental health counseling or attendance at group therapy
  • Placement in a juvenile detention facility

Getting your child’s theft charges reduced or dropped will be of utmost importance if there is a risk that their case will go to adult court instead of juvenile court. If your child’s case goes to adult court, they could face harsh criminal penalties, including incarceration in state prison.

If your child’s case remains in juvenile court, their charges could continue to follow them into adulthood, especially if they are placed on probation. They could receive a more severe sentence if they violate that probation in the future.

A juvenile criminal defense attorney can help you and your child defend against any allegations of theft. They can communicate with the prosecutor’s office and any law enforcement involved. Their knowledge of the Pennsylvania criminal system can benefit your family, finding the best solution to your unique case.

[H2] Call a Chester CountyJuvenile Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

Juvenile theft charges should be taken seriously. Skinner Law Firm could provide your child the best opportunity for a future with their team’s expertise in the criminal defense system. With help from a  juvenile criminal defense lawyer, you could help your child obtain a favorable outcome in their case by working to reduce or drop charges.

Avoid the harsh implications of a theft conviction when you contact our office for a free consultation. Call (610) 436-1410 today or contact us online for a confidential case review today.

Article Author

Michael J. Skinner, the founder of Skinner Law Firm LLC, is a former prosecutor with the Chester County District Attorney’s Office.

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