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What to do when your child is arrested for shoplifting

The moment you receive a phone call notifying you that your child has been arrested for shoplifting, your heart sinks. You may have mixed emotions. On the one hand, you may be disappointed and upset. On the other hand, you are also concerned about your child’s future.

You might be worried that your child’s momentary lapse in judgment might ruin the rest of your child’s life and everything you have worked so hard for. It would be a natural reaction given the fact that theft is one of the most serious offenses that a person can be charged with. The consequences of a theft conviction can follow a person for life, closing many doors that would otherwise be open. However, the good news is that with the right guidance, your child can avoid going to jail, protect his or her record, and enjoy the same opportunities as they would have had the offense not occurred. 


Do know that it is a criminal offense

Regardless of whether it’s a ticket, an offense punishable by jail, or a felony theft, this is a criminal offense that could end up on your child’s permanent record. Having any kind of criminal offense on your child’s record can potentially affect their opportunities, both academically and professionally.

Do understand this is a serious offense

There are certain offenses that are considered crimes of moral turpitude, including theft. A crime of moral turpitude refers to offenses that go against society’s notions of justice, honesty, or morals. An act of theft falls into the category of a crime involving dishonesty. Many institutions perceive someone who has committed a crime of moral turpitude as unfit for certain academic programs or professions because they cannot be trusted. Further, such an offense can affect a non-citizen’s ability to stay in the country.

Do be aware of the direct consequences

Once your child is accused of theft, he or she may have to serve time in jail, answer to civil suits in addition to the criminal case, and may be prohibited from serving on a jury if convicted of the theft charge.

Do be aware of the collateral consequences

A theft conviction could have collateral consequences such as loss of financial aid, scholarships, and jobs in addition to the jail time, civil suits, and restrictions. A theft conviction may limit or preclude a child from receiving financial aid, scholarships, and employment opportunities depending on the institution. 

Do contact an attorney immediately

If your child has been accused of committing theft, the consequences can be devastating. If you want to protect your child’s future by minimizing the harsh effects of a theft conviction, you should contact an attorney immediately so that you can take the proper measures.


Do not think that a conviction is inevitable

An actual conviction can possibly be avoided with the right approach. There are a number of options available in which the court is willing to keep the conviction off of your child’s record in exchange for the successful completion of certain conditions by the child, such as diversion programs, conditional dismissals, and deferred adjudication.

Do not conclude that jail time is inevitable

While serving jail time is certainly a possibility for a child who has been charged with theft, there are ways to avoid it. In addition to diversion programs, conditional dismissals and deferred adjudication, a child may be placed on probation in lieu of serving jail time. 

Do not assume your child’s record will be tarnished

If your child’s case is dismissed, it may be eligible for expunction. An expunction is a legal process which essentially destroys the existence of the offense. To avoid the collateral consequences on academic and professional opportunities, an expunction is the best tool.

If your child satisfies the conditions for deferred adjudication, your child may be eligible for an order of nondisclosure. An order of nondisclosure prohibits criminal justice agencies from disclosing the child’s offense to the public. Though the record is not completely cleared of the charge, the order of nondisclosure prevents most parties from seeing the offense, including potential employers. 

Do not pay money on the civil suit or demand letter

It is not uncommon for a civil suit to accompany a criminal charge in a theft situation. Your child may receive a demand letter from the attorney representing the complaining witness asking you to pay for the damages to avoid a civil suit. Do not pay the demand until you first talk to an attorney.

Do not pay the citation without talking to an attorney

If your child receives a citation for the theft, do not pay the citation until you have talked to an attorney. Paying a citation is a conviction, which cannot be removed from your child’s record under most circumstances. 

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As a parent, you want to protect your child’s interests and ensure that he or she will still have a bright future despite their mistakes. If your child is accused of theft, know that your child is facing a criminal charge, understand the seriousness of the offense, be aware of the direct consequences as well as the collateral consequences, and contact an attorney immediately.

Don’t assume that a conviction is inevitable, that jail time is inevitable, or that your child’s record can’t be protected. Don’t pay a demand on a civil suit or a citation without first consulting with an attorney. You can help your child avoid the harsh consequences and long-term impact if you consult with an attorney to help guide you through the process. 

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Benson VargheseCriminal Defense Attorney

Benson Varghese, of Varghese & Smith, PLLC, has tried over one hundred cases to juries in Texas. As a part of his criminal defense practice, Benson regularly handles cases ranging from DWI misdemeanor cases to felony intoxication manslaughter ca...

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