Minor shopping

While shoplifting is considered a mere petty crime in many states, anyone can face consequences if they’re caught in the act. Shoplifting is intentionally taking property or merchandise displayed for sale from a store without paying for them. Most shoplifting crimes are committed by teenagers or young adults. If you’re a teenager caught shoplifting, you might wonder what consequences you’ll face as a minor. Read on or reach out to a York County, PA Juvenile Lawyer to find out what happens to minors charged with shoplifting.


If you’re caught shoplifting and the store decides to press charges, the store may legally detain you for a short period of time until law enforcement arrives and takes further action. The crime is usually regarded as an “act of delinquency” if committed by a minor and therefore must be handled in juvenile court. In general, a crime committed by someone under 18 is considered a juvenile offense and has a different legal process than adult offenses. Juvenile courts normally have a diversion program for first-time offenders. The program may require teenagers to take a course in shoplifting offenses, complete community service, or maintain good academic standing.

Many retail stores today have surveillance video systems in place to catch shoplifters. This allows the stores to keep track of what and how much customers are stealing. Because shoplifting is considered larceny in Connecticut, the severity of the charge depends on the value of the stolen items.


This entirely depends on the circumstances of the situation. In Connecticut and most other states, the court recognizes that most criminal minors need rehabilitation and not punishment. This is because the human brain is not fully developed until the age of 25, meaning minors may have difficulty making good decisions and recognizing the consequences of their actions.  Usually, only teenagers who have committed severe crimes or have repeated offenses are sent to juvenile detention as punishment. Most juveniles caught shoplifting are required to pay for the merchandise and participate in a diversion program. Other consequences for minor shoplifting include:

  • An order to pay for the stolen merchandise
  • Juvenile probation
  • Counseling
  • Suspension of driver’s license

You may face harsher consequences if you are a repeat offender or stole a large amount of valuable property.


In certain cases, minors’ criminal cases can be transferred to adult court, meaning the minor can be tried as an adult for their crime. Normally this only happens when teenagers commit serious crimes (like homicide or armed robbery), so transferring a shoplifting case to adult court is pretty rare. Additionally, you must be at least 16 to be tried in adult court in Connecticut. Most juvenile shoplifting cases are handled in juvenile court.


When a minor is adjudicated delinquent for a shoplifting offense, this record is not automatically public, unlike adult criminal records. Pennsylvania’s juvenile justice system focuses on the rehabilitation of the minor and, as such, aims to prevent the lifelong stigma associated with a criminal record. It’s important to understand that while a juvenile record is not “public” in the traditional sense, it is not entirely erased either and can be accessed under specific circumstances, such as by certain government agencies or for background checks if the individual seeks employment in a sensitive field requiring clearances.

For those concerned about the long-term impact of a shoplifting charge, Pennsylvania offers several avenues for relief. Upon meeting certain conditions, such as reaching the age of 18, having no subsequent offenses, and demonstrating a period of rehabilitation, minors or their guardians can petition the court for expungement of the juvenile record. Expungement can effectively erase the record of the shoplifting offense, thereby removing barriers to opportunities like employment, education, and housing that might be affected by a criminal record.

If you need quality legal assistance, Ilkhanoff & Silverstein are on your side! Reach out to one of our highly experienced attorneys for effective resolutions.