PDA

View Full Version : Teens, Theft and Probation



JamieB
01-11-2011, 09:54 PM
Hello! In my WIP, my MC takes a pair of diamond earrings from the parents' bedroom at a party. She was seen leaving the room, and the cops come to her house the next day. She's not home. Her mom calls her cell and tells her to get home - in the meantime, Mom finds the earrings in her room.

This is a first time offense. The cops take her to the station. Right now I have her possibly put on probation - but does that depend upon the victim pressing charges? If they decide not to, does she just walk w/o any legal issues?

Also, would she be put on probation right away, while at the police station, or is there a court date necessary. I have tried to look this stuff up and can't find a lot of direct "this is how it works" information.

Thanks for any help you can provide!

Williebee
01-11-2011, 10:00 PM
Clarifying here:

The teen is how old?
She took earrings from her own home, her own parents?
Does she have ANY criminal record?
Who called the cops?

My past experience is that if it is her own parents and they called the cops, and she has no priors, a parent would have to press charges and provide evidence or it would go nowhere with the State's Attorney/District Attorney's office. They don't really want to make time for family squabbles.

Oh, and check your reps for more useful information.

JamieB
01-11-2011, 10:07 PM
Clarifying here:

The teen is how old?
She took earrings from her own home, her own parents?
Does she have ANY criminal record?
Who called the cops?

My past experience is that if it is her own parents and they called the cops, and she has no priors, a parent would have to press charges and provide evidence or it would go nowhere with the State's Attorney/District Attorney's office. They don't really want to make time for family squabbles.

Oh, and check your reps for more useful information.

Sorry, my rambling post wasn't too clear.

She's 17, went to a party and stole a pair of diamond earrings from the home owner - her friend's Mom.

Thanks for the rep!! Very helpful!

suki
01-11-2011, 10:09 PM
Hello! In my WIP, my MC takes a pair of diamond earrings from the parents' bedroom at a party. She was seen leaving the room, and the cops come to her house the next day. She's not home. Her mom calls her cell and tells her to get home - in the meantime, Mom finds the earrings in her room.

This is a first time offense. The cops take her to the station. Right now I have her possibly put on probation - but does that depend upon the victim pressing charges? If they decide not to, does she just walk w/o any legal issues?

Also, would she be put on probation right away, while at the police station, or is there a court date necessary. I have tried to look this stuff up and can't find a lot of direct "this is how it works" information.

Thanks for any help you can provide!

This depends a lot on the jursidiction (state) where it takes place. But, some helpful hints:

First, it's not shoplifitng - shoplifting is taking something from a store. it's larceny - ie, theft of the personal property of another. In many jurisdictions the courts will take a theft from a person's home more seriously than from a store.

Second, if the people she stole from "aren't going to press charges" then why do they even call the police? I think they'd call the parents first if they didn't intend to press charges. I guess you could get around this by their calling the police and then when they realize the circumstances and get the property back they decide they don't want her charged - but, they may not have a choice. If the police have sufficient evidence, she might get charged anyway.

My bigger issues are some logic flaws. If the police come to the MC's house, and accuse the girl, why would her mother (a) search her room while the police are tehre, (b) give them the evidence to potentially send her kid to jail, (c) tell them anything at all? And the reality is the police likely wouldn't tell the mother what it's about for fear the mother would then tell the kid and give her time to come up with a story and get rid of the evidence. Now, they could come with a search warrant, and then they would search her room, but that seems less likely without more evidence.

BUT, assuming you resolve the logical flaws, and she were charged with a crime, there would be court appearances and likely a plea deal before she got sentenced to probation.

At seventeen, she could be charged in adult court in some states, but she'll likely still be in juvenile court in others. If she's a first time offender w/o any other factors (ie, other charges, violence, drug use, etc.) they might work out some sort of deferred prosecution where if she does some program or community service, it actually gets wiped off her record entirely. But you'll have to research that further once you know what state your character is in. Otherwise, probation is likely. And if she's in juvenile court and the judge is worried about her escalating into other destructive behaviors, she could end up in some sort of juvenile detention program aimed to get her on the right track again - but that would likely not happen if this were an isolated event and the people she stole from don't want her charged, speak up, etc. - not sure on that - you'll have to research further.

And maybe some others will come in with some other thoughts and expertise.

But it's not going to be immediately resolved, and not just at the police station - if she is charged, then that gets resolved before a judge - there many be a farily quick resolution by a plea deal, but there may then be followup court appearances.

And even if the people she stole from decide not to care - if the police recovered the stolen property from her and her mother essentially gave them the evidence, the only way she's not getting charged is if the people she stole from decide to lie to protect her (like by saying they forgot they lent her the earrings) and that's unlikely to happen.

So, you have some logic flaws to deal with before getting to the legal stuff. :)

~suki

Chris P
01-11-2011, 10:11 PM
Probation is set by a judge, but there doesn't have to be a trial if there is a guilty plea or a plea agreement. What would happen is she would be charged (but in this case probably not put in jail), the case would go to the prosecutor and a hearing date would be set where she could plead guilty or not. She might be able to plead guilty before the hearing, but this might depend on the state. Depending on her plea there might or might not be a trial. The probation would be set upon the verdict (either a jury verdict or by the judge in the absence of a jury). Such a small theft probably would not go to a jury trial in most states.

The charges can be dropped, or the victim can specify the perp do something in lieu of a trial (called an adjudicated sentence). True story: My car was stolen by one of my son's friends. He had other charges pending on him, and he would face significant prison time if he were found guilty for all of them. Figuring he had a better chance of learning something useful in the Army than in prison, we and some of the other victims agreed to an adjudicated sentence of army enlistment. He enlisted and that was the end of it. Unfortunately, he went AWOL and is now in federal prison.

PinkAmy
01-11-2011, 10:19 PM
It depends whether this would be adjudicated in family/juvenile or adult court. If she doesn't have a record she'd probably stay in family court.
Technically, the crime is against the State, not the victim of the crime. The state vs. MC so the crime victims don't always have a say, particularly if your MC has a record,

JamieB
01-11-2011, 10:30 PM
Technically, the crime is against the State, not the victim of the crime. The state vs. MC so the crime victims don't always have a say, particularly if your MC has a record,

This is what I'm afraid of. She doesn't have a record.

MarkEsq
01-11-2011, 10:35 PM
Jamie - tell us what you'd like to have happen, then maybe we can help get you there. There are SO many variables that it's easy to manipulate some part of it to achieve the desired result.

Chris P
01-11-2011, 10:39 PM
This is what I'm afraid of. She doesn't have a record.

Just so I'm clear, you want the people she stole from to have direct say in what happens? In that case, could you have it be a civil rather than criminal matter? Maybe she smashed her car into their fence, and they sue her (or her parents) for the repairs?

Contact the law university in the state your story takes place. They should have a "press relations" or "contact us" link on their website. I contacted the U Alabama at B'ham law school this way, explained what I was doing and they put me in touch with a delightful lady who bent over backwards to answer my questions (too bad I moved the story to Tennessee :()

JamieB
01-11-2011, 11:07 PM
Jamie - tell us what you'd like to have happen, then maybe we can help get you there. There are SO many variables that it's easy to manipulate some part of it to achieve the desired result.

Okay! :)

She takes the earrings because her dad died and her Mom's having big financial issues - sister goes to a special school and she doesn't want her sister to have to be pulled out and put in public school - that's her main reason for taking the earrings.

The guy who has the party - she's sort of going out with. He gets his parents not to press charges.

She has to travel to Scotland, so I need her to be able to leave the country.

I could take this whole part out if I have to, but it's a whole subplot with this guy that adds a lot of conflict with another storyline. BUT, if it comes down to it, I can change it.

JamieB
01-11-2011, 11:08 PM
Contact the law university in the state your story takes place. They should have a "press relations" or "contact us" link on their website. I contacted the U Alabama at B'ham law school this way, explained what I was doing and they put me in touch with a delightful lady who bent over backwards to answer my questions (too bad I moved the story to Tennessee :()

That's a good idea!

PinkAmy
01-11-2011, 11:54 PM
Honestly, I can't see the parents pressing charges or the police going ballistic about your scenario and charging her without the parents cooperation in your scenario. Especially if she's a good kid who stole out of desperation and feeling overwhelmed.
Remember the DA has to decide the case is worth prosecuting, even if she's arrested.
I think you should leave the part in, it's a realistic response to what she's going through (I'm a child psychologist).

jclarkdawe
01-12-2011, 02:04 AM
As Mark says, there are a crapload of variables here, but my guess would be that this would be handled before the court system. By the way, this will play out substantially the same whether it goes to adult court or juvenile court.

Let's start with how the crime happened. She entered a room at a house to which she was invited, and apparently the party didn't trash the house. So you've got a theft, but not with any aggravating circumstances.

You don't say what the value of the earrings are, but I'm going to guess the victim has some level of money. This would indicate it is occurring in a neighborhood or town with some money, as opposed to inner city Los Angeles. Further the kid has a clean record.

So if this goes to court, the victim has to spend a day in court, and as her attorney, I'd make sure the day was a very long one. Further, at least on some level, the victim's kid and the bad kid probably go to the same school and know each other. I don't know her school record. Or the victim can insist on this not going to court, and not wasting a day out of the victim's life, and helping a kid the victim's family knows.

So I don't think the victim is likely to insist on prosecuting, even if the victim is pissed on the day they call the police. Think the police don't know this? And they know that the most they might get is a conviction with a suspended sentence, that would be annulled in a few years under most states' youth offender statutes (most states allow young offenders who are technically adults show be behavior after their conviction that they've learned their lessons). Personally, if I couldn't get this placed on file with a finding (in other words -- no record), I'd actually have to wake up for the case and do some work.

My guess is the police would have her come to the police station. Once the earrings are returned, they'd probably throw her into an interrogation room for a couple of hours, let her sweat, then good cop/bad cop her into an emotional wreck, then let her go. Odds are she will have learned her lesson and the police will have made effective use of limited resources.


Hello! In my WIP, my MC takes a pair of diamond earrings from the parents' bedroom at a party. She was seen leaving the room, and the cops come to her house the next day. She's not home. Her mom calls her cell and tells her to get home No, the police would request she go down to the station. If she's an adult, by herself. If she's a minor, with her mother. The police have no interest in transporting prisoners if they can avoid it. Let her get to the station on her own steam would be their approach. - in the meantime, Mom finds the earrings in her room. I can see mom searching the room. I've also had reasonable parents (my opinion, not their kids) who have turned evidence over to the police.

This is a first time offense. Big factor here. The cops take her to the station. Right now I have her possibly put on probation - but does that depend upon the victim pressing charges? Somewhat, but the police can discourage people from filing charges. If they decide not to, does she just walk w/o any legal issues? Yes, although the police would almost definitely give her a lecture. A lot of this will depend upon how the police read your character.

Also, would she be put on probation right away, while at the police station, or is there a court date necessary. Most likely if this went anywhere, she'd be put into a diversion program. These are programs designed to take stupid acts by young people and turn the behavior around. I have tried to look this stuff up and can't find a lot of direct "this is how it works" information. Lots of variables here, both from the view of each different state, and different police departments, and then how the individual facts play out. Two towns right next to each other could handle this very differently.

Thanks for any help you can provide!

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

cornetto
01-12-2011, 02:48 AM
Easiest solution: don't involve the cops at all. Homeowner discovers the theft and questions son about the party. Son already knows MC was in the bedroom (maybe she was in there with him, admiring or even trying on the earrings). Son convinces parents to not go to police. He and his parents go to MC's house and talk to mother. MC has to come home and face them all together. That could almost be worse than getting arrested.

JamieB
01-12-2011, 05:26 AM
Thank you all for your time and posts - they've been extremely helpful!!!!