A police car pulls into your driveway, and your child is riding sheepishly in the back seat. It’s not a moment you ever wanted to experience, but it’s here. The officer explains that your child, whom you thought was just hanging out with friends at the mall, got caught shoplifting.

You’re shocked that your child would participate in something that they know is wrong. How could they do this? The reason may be fairly simple. Here are three potential reasons that children shoplift, according to experts:

  1. If your child is very young, they may honestly not understand that they have to pay for something before leaving the store with it. They may grab something they want without telling you and walk out of the store with it.
  2. Even when your child does know stealing is wrong, there is still an issue with self-control. Children break the rules all the time. Your child may regret it after getting caught, but they may have simply decided to risk it in the moment. Perhaps they didn’t know any other way to get an item they could not afford or that you directly told them they could not buy.
  3. If your child is a teenager, then you have to consider things like peer pressure and the “thrill” of breaking the law. Many teens shoplift because they’re bored, and they think it will be fun. Maybe their peers goad them into doing it, and they desperately want to fit in with the group.

Of course, every case is unique. No matter why your child got arrested, make sure you know what legal defense options you have to protect their future.