A month before my 15-year-old sister started her sophomore year of high school, a couple of her friends and my sister were shopping at the local mall for school clothes. She had just started to hang around these friends at the beginning of the summer. These girls were known to get into trouble in and out of school. Our parents warned her not to do anything she would not normally do while she was around these friends. After purchasing items at a few stores, my sister didn’t have any money left. While shopping at the next store my sister saw a few items that she really liked and wanted to buy them. She noticed that she didn’t have any money left. My sister decided to go into the dressing room and put the items into a bag from another store. As she and her friends were leaving the store their bags went off, and the store employees searched their bags. They found items in my sisters bag that added up to $150 worth of merchandise. The store employee called their boss the owner of the store to see what they should do about my sister. The owner told them to call the police and press charges.
After the police arrived and learned about the situation, they brought my sister to the police station. The intake officer interviewed my sister after our parents arrived at the stations. He advised her and my parents of her rights and the charges she will face. Being that the value of the merchandise stolen was under $200 in the state of New Jersey, that is categorized as a disorderly persons offense. My sister could face up to 6 months detention. My parents decided to get a good private attorney to help better her chances of lowering her sentence. Being that my sister has no prior record was always a good student up until she started to hang around these new friends, the judge allowed my sisters sentence to be reduced to a fine of $300 and two months of community service.
New Jersey describes shoplifting in many different ways. It also is considered a very serious crime for juveniles and adults. A person who purposely takes or carries away merchandise from a store can be charged with shoplifting. If a person purposely conceals on one’s person any merchandise from a store or retail establishment, with the intent to deprive the owner of its use or benefit. This next type of description includes if the juvenile converts, alters, transfer, or removes, any label, price tag or value of the merchandise and then attempt to purchase the item from the store. If a person transfers the merchandise from the original container in which it is displayed into another container in order to deprive the merchant of its value, is also considered shoplifting. Also if a person makes the cash register indicate a different price of the item in order to purchase with a different price. These are definitions of shoplifting offense allow there to be a bigger separation between the degrees of the crime. Having a separation between the different degrees of shoplifting offense allow the further prosecution of the juvenile.
Shoplifting in New Jersey considered a criminal theft offense and the charges are divided into four different degrees. The first one is a second-degree offense; this is when a juvenile is caught with merchandise with a value of $75,000 or more. He or she can face up to three years in detention if convicted of the crime. The next one is third degree shoplifting; it is when a juvenile is caught with merchandise with a value of more than $500 but less than $75,000. This juvenile faces up to two years of detention. A fourth-degree offense is when a juvenile is caught with a value of $200 or more but less than $500, they face up to a year in prison. The last one, a disorderly persons offense is when a juvenile is caught with a value of under $200, they face up to 6 months of detention. It is also considered a disorderly person offense if the juvenile possesses or uses an anti-shoplifting device, this is when a device is used that demagnetizes security tags or alters the bar code on the merchandise item. (Marshall Law, 10). A first-time juvenile offender who committed a fourth degree or a disorderly persons offense usually will not face incarceration.
At a federal level there are not many laws that have to do with shoplifting. Since there are no store or companies that are owned by the federal government. The only thing that would be included in federal laws surrounding shoplifting would be other property offenses. Going back to my sisters case, she shoplifted at a state level. Her crime would be considered a disorderly persons offense. Being that it was her first offense, she will not be sent to jail for any amount of time.
The number of juveniles committing shoplifting over the past 20 years has actually gone down. According to the government data shoplifting offenses rose in the 1980’s, then it “declined steadily between 1994 and 2005 and then grew slightly before dropping again to just above 800 arrests per 100,000 in 2010” (Bonnie & Chemers, 2013, p. 64). Over the past years shoplifting has continued to rise and fall throughout the years. Starting with a high number in the 1980’s to then declining starting in 1994, to then rising again in 2005. Finally the numbers have continued to go down since 2010. In 2018 just over 22,000 juveniles were arrested in the US for shoplifting. The juveniles who commit the shoplifting offense are ones who maybe hand out with the wrong people and fall into social pressure and commit the crimes they are around. They can also be someone who is struggling and feels that is the only way they can get the items they need or want. Some other types of juveniles who shoplift are the ones who are known as thrill seekers who have developed a risk-taking behavior. The other person involved in this offense are the victims. Most of the victims in shoplifting offenses are the store or company owners who lost out on the money they could have made from the merchandise. The other victims in this offense may be the juveniles family, they are the ones who most likely are paying for the lawyer and the fines that may come from the offense. With my sisters case, my parents paid for her defense attorney and the fines that came about from the case.
At the beginning of juvenile justice system, society wanted the juveniles who committed crimes serve the same punishments that adults receive. They felt that juveniles get off easy and their punishment do not satisfy the victim/societies need for retribution. Over the last ten years society’s view of juvenile offenders has changed a lot. Now society sees that juveniles need more rehabilitation to be able to get back onto the right track. The society saw that juveniles are not as mature as adults and they might not realize that what they are doing is wrong and against the law. They also see that rehabilitation helps keep juveniles out of further trouble. “Positive parenting practices during the early years and later in adolescence appear to act as buffers preventing delinquent behavior and assisting adolescents already involved in such behavior in desisting from further delinquency” (Wright 26). Family role in the juveniles life is a very important aspect to help keep them out of trouble and prevent delinquency. If the family roles in the juveniles life is not very prominent, it could lead to juvenile delinquency. In my sisters case, our parents and myself have been positive parts in her life and will continue to be positive to help keep her out of further trouble.
The criminal justice system views juvenile offenders in almost the complete opposite way then society does. They saw from the beginning that juveniles are not as culpable for their criminal acts as adults are. Juveniles in the eyes of the criminal justice system are more likely to be rehabilitated, to help prevent them from committing further offenses. Over time however the criminal justice system developed the ‘get tough’ model. This led to harsher punishments for crimes committed by juveniles. The type of crime and its outcome greatly influence the sentence the juvenile receives. For fourth degree or disorderly persons offense, the criminal justice system is not too tough on those juveniles. Once the shoplifting is anything other than those degrees, they are tough on the juveniles who committed the crime.
There are many theories that try to explain the reason juveniles act out in delinquent behavior. Classical theory has this idea that juveniles act this way out of free will and that they choose to commit criminal acts. This theory assumes that people are rational beings and choose between acting good or evil. Using this theory with a juvenile who commits a shoplifting offense, may be doing this for reasons such as greed or personal need. A juvenile may need a new pair of sneakers, however, instead of buying them he/she uses a less conventional method and decides to steal them instead. Someone who believes in the classical theory may see this juvenile as acting out for a personal need and nothing more. Another theory, the biological theory believes that delinquents are destined to become delinquents. Since this theory’s views criminal behavior as something that comes from the juveniles genes, hormones or heredity. This theory does not believe that these juveniles act out of free will and chose to commit criminal acts. The next theory is sociological theory. This theory sees that humans are social animals and we live in social groups, that help create and influence the behaviors that may be criminal. This theory views criminal acts by his/her social environment, but it also rejects the notion that people might just be born criminals. Sociological theory looks at the juveniles social life and not just their personal traits when they’re explaining why they are delinquent.