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Should I press charges against my 15 yr old son to teach him actions have consequence?

Westport, MA |

He's withdrawing money from my account without permission by taking my debit card. He has taken in excess of $900.00 cash,
Xbox charges & iTunes. I've canceled the card. I want him to learn a lesson, but not ruin his future. On the same token the bank explained I can not get my money back unless I press charges. I noticed a weird charge on my statement recently, or this behavior I'm sure would have continued. If he did this to a stranger, the consequences would be quite severe. I've tallied over 1100.00 from the statements I retrieved from the bank.

Attorney Answers 6

  1. Best answer

    You might not be able to get your money back from the bank without filing charges but you may be able to get it back directly from the companies or websites he charged to if they didn't make sure they were dealing with an adult who had authorization to use the card. On the other hand, if you seek the money back from them they can potentially seek fraud complaints against him themselves.

    I agree with Atty. Taylor that you do not want to push your son into the criminal justice system, even the juvenile delinquency system, since it has too many potential downsides for his immediate and longer term future.

    I also agree with Atty. Taylor that a therapist for your son might be a better option. If your son does not accept your consequences and cooperate with the therapy appointments to address his issues, Massachusetts's new Child Requiring Assistance law (formerly known as CHINS) may be an option for you. A child requiring assistance is someone between the ages of 6 and 18 who, amongst other things, "repeatedly fails to obey the lawful and reasonable commands of a parent, legal guardian or custodian, thereby interfering with their ability to care for and protect the child."

    CRA "cases are not to be entered on the child's Criminal Offender Record Information, Court Appearance Record Information, Board of Probation record or Warrant Management System. If the application is dismissed before a fact-finding hearing it is supposed to be expunged. No record 'shall be maintained or remain active' after the case is dismissed."

    See my blog post about CRA and the links in the post at the link below.

    NOTE: This answer is made available by the lawyer for educational purposes only. By using or participating in this site you understand that there is no attorney client privilege between you and the attorney responding. This site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your area who regularly practices in the subject matter which your question is about. You should develop an attorney client relationship with the lawyer of your choice so that your communications will be subject to the attorney client privilege and have the other benefits of a professional relationship. The law changes frequently and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The information and materials provided are general in nature, and may not apply to a specific matter as partially described in the question.

  2. I cannot recommend that a parent discipline a child by committing him to the "correcting" influence of the criminal justice system. At least, not as "a warning shot over the bow" on the facts you describe. I agree, however, that what you describe is quite serious.

    Nor can I suggest to you how exactly to proceed. I suspect you have many avenues of possible influence with respect to your son. You may want to consider a consultation with a competent family and child therapist concerning this incident and what may have led to it.

    Not legal advice as I don't practice law in Massachusetts. It's just my two cents. Consult Massachusetts counsel if you need legal advice. I practice in Vermont ONLY.

  3. This is not a legal question, but my answer is still no. Criminal charges are extremely serious and could seriously impair your child's immediate future. Why not instead get him the help he needs through counseling or therapy. Best of luck.

    Melissa Levine is a licensed attorney in Massachusetts. All answers are based on Massachusetts law and should not be construed as legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is formed by Attorney Levine answering your question. It is advisable to consult with an attorney about your personal legal concerns.

  4. This sounds like a question better posed to a family therapist. You need to figure out what's at the root of the behavior so that it can be corrected -- and you need some guidance on how to appropriately and consistently discipline your son given whatever it is that's going on with him.

    I don't think your son's future is worth $1,100. Sometimes kids cost money. The court might order restitution, but at a significant cost. A criminal record can have implications for employment, obtaining student loans, and so forth.

    Good luck.

    E. Alexandra "Sasha" Golden is a Massachusetts lawyer. All answers are based on Massachusetts law. All answers are for educational purposes and no attorney-client relationship is formed by providing an answer to a question.

  5. I would agree with my colleagues, the criminal justice system is not meant to teach children a family lesson. Charges will have serious consequences.

    This is not intended as legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.

  6. It is notable that all the attorney answers are discouraging you from using the the courts to discipline your son. I agree with all their views. Should he get involved in the legal system, even via a CRA, the consequences might be unpredictable and you might lose control/custody of your son.

    It sounds like he may have an impulse control type disorder and that family and individual therapy should be explored. If he does have such a disorder and/or other emotional deficits, it would be especially counterproductive to punish him for behaviors he may not be able to control or does not understand why they are wrong. You can remove privileges as a way to enforce discipline, but as someone who works extensively in the juvenile court, I highly recommend against using the court.

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