Police in Bath arrested two shoplifting suspects with the help of a local man. The incident draws out some common themes in shoplifting cases, particularly the fact that most instances of shoplifting are juvenile offenses.
The otherwise run-of-the-mill incident only seemed to make the news cycle because it took the help of a local man to help police officers arrest the shoplifting suspects.
According to the police, on August 23, 2019, one police officer was trying to arrest a teenage boy and a teenage girl for trying to shoplift alcohol from a convenience store in Bath. A fight broke out between the two suspects and the officer, and a local man, 71-year-old Joseph Maist, intervened.
With Mr. Maist’s help, the officer arrested both suspects. They were both eventually charged with a host of crimes, including:
Mr. Maist was recognized for his actions and awarded a department coin and a certificate.
The situation is another example of how common it is for a shoplifting case to involve suspects who are under the legal age of 18. In this case, the alleged shoplifters were 15 and 17 years old.
While there are few figures to back it up, anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that most shoplifting cases involve minors under the age of 18. Taking candy bars from stores is often a right of passage in high school, and other forms of shoplifting – like taking beer or something else – can be the result of peer pressure or a dare.
Most of these cases progress through the juvenile court system. However, there are situations where a shoplifting case can involve other criminal offenses that can lead to the suspects being tried as adults.
There are some situations where an alleged juvenile shoplifter can be tried as an adult in the traditional court system, rather than in Juvenile Court.
One of these situations is when there are serious criminal charges in addition to the shoplifting accusation. If the other criminal charges are for a prior felony-level offense – now anything more serious than a Class C crime – 15 Maine Statute § 3101(4)(A) allows the prosecutor to ask the Juvenile Court to waive its jurisdiction. This can trigger a bind-over hearing where the Juvenile Court judge will decide whether to keep or waive jurisdiction over the case.
Because assault on a police officer is a Class C crime, it is not a guarantee that these shoplifting suspects will have their case heard in Juvenile Court. If the judge in the bind-over hearing decides to waive jurisdiction over the case, it can be heard in a traditional court where the suspects are treated as adults and where the consequences of a conviction rise dramatically.
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