Kids will be kids. This is true at any stage of development. They love to explore and get into things. Learning comes through trial and error and, often, young people don’t see their errors until after their trials. Young children take chances innocently, while older kids may start to experiment with mischief. Sometimes that mischief crosses a line, and the minor has now broken the law.
Why Do Kids Break the Law?
Sometimes, quite frankly, kids just don’t know better. Many parents have stories about their young kids coming out of a store, holding an item, saying, “Mommy! Look what I found!” There was no maliciousness or harmful intent in their actions. The child was just unaware that they were making a bad choice.
This innocence can extend into adolescence when we think kids should “know better.” Young people want to learn things for themselves. They want to see what the world is like hands-on, not just be told how things are. It’s possible for kids to do something, knowing they might get into trouble, without realizing just how much trouble. What they take as a fun, harmless moment may be a real problem with serious consequences.
Trouble at Home
When someone’s personal life isn’t going well, they may act out in other ways. This isn’t an age-specific problem. Kids, however, don’t have much life experience or emotional control, so they can act out in extreme ways.
Personal woes don’t necessarily mean that a child is living in extreme abuse. An amicable divorce among their parents can still cause problems for kids. Academic troubles that lead to extra pressure at home can make adolescents act out. Every adult is different, and so is every kid. Some people can take hardships in stride, and others are adversely impacted. With all the pressures of modern-day life, it’s no wonder that kids sometimes get into trouble.
Falling Into the Wrong Crowd
It sounds like a cliché, but clichés exist for a reason. There are perfectly good kids who have stable home lives that sometimes make the wrong friends. Influences come from everywhere, and people tend to assimilate into their groups. If a child spends enough time around the wrong people, they may find themselves on the wrong side of the law.
Crimes Committed by Kids
Within demographics, you tend to find similar behaviors. This group of people is more likely to be interested in video games; that group is more likely to attend live concerts. The same is true with crimes. If someone commits a white-collar crime, you can usually assume that they don’t fall into the same category as someone who mugs people in alleyways. When looking at juveniles, there are actions that are common and crimes that go with those actions.
Legally, stealing and theft crimes are termed “larceny.” Larceny is the most common crime among minors. Shoplifting is particularly tempting. It’s easy to quickly stick an item into a pocket with no one looking.
When a minor continues down a path of criminal behavior, theft crimes can become more severe. Among older teens, those who are closer to adulthood, we see a lot of violent theft, such as muggings and armed robbery.
As we’ve already mentioned, kids and teens have a harder time controlling their emotions. Anger builds up, and kids get into fights. Physical assaults are common among teens, and they can have legal consequences. A litigious parent may press charges, even when the fight was a mutual decision among the combatants. Schools may be required to report assaults to the authorities, depending on the situation.
Drugs and Alcohol
Whether it be from a need for escape or the influence of their peers, minors often find themselves mixed up in substance abuse. It is, of course, a crime for them to possess and use these substances. However, the very act of obtaining the substances creates legal difficulties. Kids may use fake IDs to buy alcohol, which is a separate charge on top of use or possession.
Crimes Based on Status
There are activities that are perfectly legal for adults to do, but when kids do them, it’s a crime. For example, a college student can miss all the class they want whereas a kid under 16 can be arrested for truancy. These are “status crimes,” or crimes that apply only to certain groups.
Talk to a Lawyer
Whenever you or your family is facing criminal charges, you should call an attorney. Don’t let the idea of “minor” charges and penalties stop you. Yes, juveniles should be taught that their actions have consequences, but they should also know that there is a system designed to defend them. Even minor accusations and punishments can be challenged, and justice should be served.