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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.

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Attorney answers 6

Best Answer
Posted

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.

L. Maxwell Taylor

L. Maxwell Taylor

Posted

The extra information in this answer, counsel, regarding CRA cases, is very helpful to know. Thank you.

Asker

Posted

I found this information quite helpful and I thank you as well as everyone who commented. It's difficult to put all information into a short question. My son is not a troubled kid, but one who unfortunately feels entitled. I am a single parent ,but quite involved and he doesn't want for much. He has taken from me in the past. I have consequenced him, taken his phone,iPod, restrictions ...Ect. to no avail he does it again and a lot of money. Counseling in this case is not the answer, but I now agree, criminal charges are not either. A summer job to pay his debt to me just may do the trick. I may take him to see a lawyer for a consult as well. This may not be a legal question now, but if he were not my son and took my information as well as stole my card to withdraw cash, it would be. I don't see the differnce, It's stealing.

Michael L Rich

Michael L Rich

Posted

Your son may not generally present as a troubled kid but stealing and using your mother's bank card and passwords is an indication of some emotional turmoil. Receiving consequences for this from his mother and doing it again is a sign that either these were the wrong consequences or that consequences do not matter to him. Yes, it is stealing and it would be a criminal matter if he did this to someone else. If he does take your consequences this time and changes his behavior after working during the summer and paying you back, that would be an indication that this new consequence was the right one. But, if he works during the summer and doesn't pay you back or refuses to get the summer job, you have a behavioral health issue to address. Aside from warn him of the consequences of not obeying lawful commands of his mother or of stealing from other people, I do not see what a visit to a lawyer is going to do. An appointment with a friendly police officer, family mediator, or juvenile probation officer (as would happen with a CRA application) might be more helpful. Best wishes for success, whichever path you choose.

L. Maxwell Taylor

L. Maxwell Taylor

Posted

Very helpful, Mr. Rich.

Posted

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.

Posted

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.

Posted

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.

Posted

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.

Posted

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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