The definition of shoplifting is generally obvious—removing merchandise, that you haven’t paid for, from a store. The merchant, his employees and law enforcement have the ability to detain anyone they suspect of having wrongfully taking store products that haven’t been paid for. They are legally entitled to keep a suspect for a reasonable period of time while they investigate the matter.
There can be civil and criminal repercussions for shoplifting. Civilly, a store owner may sue for:
- Actual damages;
- A penalty equal to the amount of the merchandise shoplifted;
- An additional penalty, as determined by the court; and
- Court costs and attorney fees.
When a parent has made a reasonable attempt to see that any stolen merchandise is returned and a report made to law enforcement, that parent is not considered liable under the law. If the juvenile was taken into custody at the scene, such a report by parents is not required.
Retail theft, when the value of the merchandise stolen is less than $500, is a class B misdemeanor.
Juveniles need legal representation as much as adults do when facing situations with law enforcement and the justice system. It is to a parent’s and minor’s advantage to receive legal counsel and advice when a minor has difficulties. Each person accused of a crime has the right to an attorney, and a competent Utah attorney can make navigating the justice system easier on families who have a child that has been arrested or is otherwise needing legal assistance. Law enforcement will usually be quick to make their decisions, and you need to have someone who is adept at making sure your child’s side of the story is known.