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Minor caught shoplifting what punishments can be considered under WA criminal law

Vancouver, WA |

My 15 year-old son was caught shoplifting a $13 necklace. He has no prior convictions, nor has he been in trouble in the past. The store is going to go forward with the prosecution. What should we expect the theft fine will be? They mentioned a deversion program with community service. The topper is that he works at the mall where he was caught and they are threatening to ban him from the mall for 1 year. Is that their right?

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Attorney answers 3


He is likely being charged with theft in the third degree which is a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to 365 days in jail and a $5000 fine. A diversion program, allows him to complete certain requirements and then receive a dismissible if all of the requirements are met. Usually, a no contact order is entered preventing the defendant from having contact with the alleged victim. You may be able to get the alleged victim and prosecutor to agree to have the no contact order prevent him from going to the individual store rather than the entire mall. Also be aware the store may bring a civil action against him for the theft.


It appears you are living in Vancouver, Clark County, Washington. The most important thing for you to do is to chat with an attorney who is experienced in criminal law and who is familiar with local practice and the prosecutors of the area in which you live. I recommend you speak with Chris Ramsay, an excellent criminal law attorney in Clark County. Here is the link to his website: He can be reached at 360 694 1097.

Your son will not go to jail for 365 days, nor will he have to pay a $5,000 fine - the prior attorney answering your post accurately quoted the upper most range for punishment in situations that are very different from what you are describing. A judge has discretion in sentencing, so a sentence can be anywhere from zero days to 365, and a fine is similarly discretionary, though it will not be zero, as there are statutory amounts that must be satisfied. Also, "jail time" can be converted to "community service" in situations similar to what you are describing, and it is not unheard of for a judge to give jail time only to then give your son additional community service in lieu of the jail time.

The diversion program that has already been discussed with you is not an unlikely scenario, given the facts as you have described them. It would be important for an experienced criminal law attorney to review the diversion agreement to make sure that your son's arrangement is appropriate to his individual situation. There is a surprising amount of negotiation that can take place in diversion agreements, and an experienced criminal law attorney can greatly assist with that negotiation.

As for a civil suit over a $13 necklace . . . while the advice from the prior attorney answering this post is technically accurate, I would think it an unlikely scenario that the store would take this step. The criminal courts can assess restitution for loss the store has experienced as a result of your son's behavior, and that generally ends things. You may want to discuss the notion of a "civil compromise" with an attorney - its been years, but I used to negotiate such arrangements with prosecutors and businesses in such situations and this remedy may still be available for your son.

As for the trespass notice, this could end up being a bigger problem than the criminal charge. Chris Ramsay can assist you with this as well and you should definitely consult with him about this.

Some time parents feel that these situations can provide good "life lessons" for their children, and miscomprehend the long-ranging effects that this experience, not to mention a criminal record, can have on a young person. And folks don't always realize that the prosecuting attorney's job is to defend the community against crime, not to work for the benefit of those accused of crime, or for the benefit of the parents of those accused of crime. Prosecuting attorneys do their job well and understand their role well - you would be wise to not rely solely on them for advice about how to resolve this situation for your son.

Good luck. Nancy Nellor Retsinas


Get a lawyer because if this is not handled well these charges can be a big hurdle for getting into a home mortgage, a college or finding a job. You have rights but you need to act to protect those rights.

Unless you beat the charges this can stay on your record and haunt you for job applications. Get a lawyer to advise you. Do not speak about these charges or the incident until a lawyer is on the case for you.

Get a good lawyer so you can answer for your situation, but still be able to move on with life.

You might find my Legal Guide helpful "How to Choose A Lawyer For You"

You might find my Legal Guide helpful " What Do I Tell My Lawyer"

Too many variable exist to predict the penalty. Good luck to you.

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 that practices in the subject practice discipline and with whom you have an atttorney client relationship along with all the privileges that relationship provides. 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 factual or legal circumstance described in the question.

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