My 12-year old son was caught shoplifting headsets--valued at about $125--as my wife and kids exited a national chain store. While my wife situated our other kids in a safe spot, security guards whisked my son off to a locked room. My wife told the security guard and then the manager that she wanted to be present with our minor son, but they wouldn't let her. A male friend happened to walk in the store and my wife enlisted his help. He told the manager that if my wife couldn't be with our son, the interview stopped right then. The manager relented. A policewoman arrived and interviewed my son in front of my wife; I arrived partly through the interview and both of us sat calmly through the questioning. The manager wanted my son to sign a statement and I said that he wouldn't be signing anything without legal advice first. The police officer said that my son seemed like a nice kid and that she would be recommending community service for him.
At the conclusion of the questioning, we asked to speak to the manager and policewoman without our son present. I asked if I could tape record the conversation; the store personnel looked to the policewoman and she said that it was okay. I told them that while I was completely embarrassed by my son's actions and that any punishment they could give him would pale in comparison to what he would receive at home, I wanted to know who was responsible for separating my wife from our minor son and then not allowing her access to him? The manager finally accepted responsibility. The policewoman then kind of stumbled through an explanation that really only she had said that I could tape the conversation. At that point I got heated and told the manager that I would find out whether my son's civil rights had been violated and we left.
I imagine the policewoman and the store personnel conferred after we left because the officer called my wife on her way home and explained that since my son hadn't technically been arrested, she hadn't needed to read him his rights. She said in situations like this, she normally did it afterwards. My wife questioned her about what good it did to explain someone their rights AFTER interviewing them, but didn't receive a satisfactory explanation.
Bottom line--my son shoplifted. He was caught with the merchandise in his pocket, they have him on video tape, and he admitted it to the policewoman and I assume to the security guard (although I don't know because we weren't present). I know he wishes he had never been caught, but I truly think he is genuinely remorseful. This is completeley inconsistent with his typical behavior. My wife and I don't kid ourselves about our kids--we know they are far from perfect. But, the number of prideful moments they have brought us have dwarfed the embarrassing moments and nothing like this has ever happened. My son has straight A's in school and is very involved at our Church. While we are embarrassed by our son's actions, we love him dearly and generally consider him to possess strong character; this appears to be a momentary lapse. In any case, we want to look out for his best interests in this situation.
Where do we go from here? I know we will get a financial demand from the store, but not much else. Was my son arrested? Will he have to go to court? Should we hire an attorney? Will this be on his "record" or is there some way to avoid that?--he's only 12 and hopefully one moment of stupidity won't mark him for life. I've heard that minor's records are sealed, but that they can still be seen at times. I know a store doesn't have to contact a minor's parents, but this was actually separating my wife from our son and keeping them apart against my wife's stated wishes, not just a case of not contacting us. Was the police officer required to read my son his rights? She says she didn't have to because he wasn't actually arrested, but he was sequestered and not free to leave.
Any advice would be appreciated.