Is Juvenile Petty Theft a Gateway Crime?

Why do kids commit crime? Even when parents were children themselves, they didn’t known. Kids often don’t know why they do things. Sometimes it is peer pressure, sometimes it is sheer impulse. We may never know exactly why juvenile crimes happen, but they do. We all know the statistics, too. If a child starts committing crime at a young age, they are more likely to find themselves with a lifetime criminal record. This is even more true if they end up in the system with a conviction as a juvenile.

However, there are serious juvenile crimes like assault or drugs and then there is less serious juvenile crime like vandalism. Petty theft falls somewhere in between. Typically vandals can grow out of their rebellious phase, but those who commit theft while young could go either way, making it somewhat of a gateway crime. It is important to take steps to make sure they are guided the right way.


The very first step after your child has committed a petty theft is to contact a lawyer. It may cross your mind to “scare them” down the crime-free path by letting them get a little taste of punishment, but it is best to be avoided. Theft crimes by juveniles don’t often land them in juvenile detention, but that system, as well as other options like community service are just putting them in a confined space with other young offenders. That’s not a crowd they should be around.

Instead, make sure to be diligent in their legal defense. You can be just as effective, if not more so, punishing them yourself instead of the legal system.


Legal action can take some time to come to a conclusion. While that is happening, you should be talking to your child about their theft crime to find out the reason why. Theft can actually spawn from a number of reasons. It is best to determine the reason and work towards rectifying it. This doesn’t always mean cutting it out with decisive action, but merely talking to your child and trying to understand. Sometimes the reasons are obvious – you don’t have a lot of money, and they wanted something. Other times it can be more complex like a lack of attention and seeing bad actions as a way to get it. Whatever the reason, you can rectify it as a parent.


For a juvenile caught in a theft crime, typically there is a lot of evidence stacked up against them. While a not guilty verdict is preferred, it is better for you and a criminal defense attorney to prepare for making the punishment as light as possible. In this regard, it is best to make sure your child is or can at least act repentant. Offering for them to pay restitution is also a good way to keep punishments light as this is typically one of the punishments anyway.

However, it is important to only make this declaration if your criminal defense lawyer says it is okay. Offering to make restitution to the victim of theft is essentially admitting guilt and it can derail a case. It is best to not talk to the victim outside of court ever. If there is something you think might help the case, always pass it through your lawyer.


Juvenile crimes are difficult for everyone involved, and you don’t want to try to navigate it alone. If your child has been arrested for theft or any other crime, contact us today to see what we can do to help. The Speas Law Firm is dedicated to defending adult offenders and children alike to make sure they don’t face unfair punishments.