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McHenry County juvenile theft defense lawyerJuvenile crime has decreased over the past couple of years, but certain crimes still tend to be popular with teenagers. According to the FBI, there were more than 62,000 juveniles arrested for suspicion of committing theft or larceny in 2019, the most recent year for which statistics are available. In the United States, a juvenile is considered to be anyone who is under the age of 18, though the state of Illinois will prosecute those who are 17 or older for serious crimes. Although juveniles are typically not tried in the same court as adults, they may face similar charges and penalties that can become very serious rather quickly.

What is Retail Theft?

Illinois law not only defines the offense of general theft, which occurs when someone unlawfully takes possession or control of property that belongs to someone else, but also the specific offense of retail theft. Retail theft occurs when a person takes possession of, carries away, or transfers any merchandise from a retail establishment with the purpose of depriving the merchant of the benefit or full or partial retail value of the merchandise.

Retail theft is a Class A misdemeanor as long as the retail value of the merchandise that was stolen was no greater than $300. Penalties for a Class A misdemeanor include up to one year in jail, up to $2,500 in fines, and/or up to two years of probation. If the retail value of the merchandise exceeds $300, then the charge is increased to a Class 4 felony. Penalties for Class 4 felonies include one to three years in prison, up to $25,000 in fines, and/or up to 30 months of probation.

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Crystal Lake juvenile defense lawyerYour teen told you they were out with friends—perhaps friends that you have met dozens of times and you know their parents. Then, you get a phone call. At first, you think it is a joke or a prank, but the realization sets in that your child has been arrested for shoplifting, but the authorities are letting you take them home for now. What does that mean? The questions begin spinning through your mind, from how you will handle the situation as a parent to how this affects college applications and the future. The good news is that you are not alone; we are here to help.

Why Was My Child Released to Me?

Many juvenile shoplifting situations do not result in the young person being taken to jail. Instead, the police will often release the suspect to the custody of his or her parents after taking a report from the management at the store where the incident allegedly occurred. In the days and weeks that follow, you will receive further information about the case in the mail, including the dates and times of required court appearances. Your child must show up for these, and it is your responsibility to ensure that he or she does so.  Failure to appear will result in a warrant being put out for your child’s arrest and potentially other charges. You can assist your child by watching the mailbox and following up with the court.

What Else Can I Do to Help My Child?

It is common for parents to fluctuate between wanting to hold their children accountable for their bad decisions and wanting to protect them from the criminal consequences. A few helpful tips for parents wanting to achieve the best possible outcome in this awkward situation include:

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Expunging Juvenile Records in IllinoisWhen juveniles are adjudicated of non-violent offenses, their arrest and court records are not meant to follow them into adulthood. Courts use adjudication to discipline someone younger than 18 who has committed an offense, but adjudication of most offenses does not carry the same civil restrictions as an adult criminal conviction. To further distinguish juvenile offenses from adult offenses, juvenile records are sealed from the public. However, Illinois law allows the records to be unsealed if there is an ongoing criminal investigation or imminent threat involving the person. People who can access the sealed juvenile record of an adult include:

  • Law enforcement officials;
  • Prosecutors;
  • Military officials;
  • Child protection investigators;
  • School officials; and
  • Mental health professionals.

People can petition to have their juvenile records expunged once they turn 18, effectively destroying them. While many juvenile records are eligible for expungement, records offices rarely expunge them on their own and might not inform people of their expungement rights. Illinois lawmakers are considering a bill that would automatically expunge more juvenile records and strengthen the protection of sealed records.

Automatic Expungement

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