Juvenile Offences in Texas

What are some of the most common crimes minors commit in Texas? Find out here.

Juvenile delinquency is the act of committing crime at a very young age, usually by a minor. A ‘minor’ is a person under a certain age that legally demarcates childhood from adulthood. The maximum age for the juvenile justice system in most states is 17.

People in the juvenile justice system are normally referred to as ‘juvenile offenders’ or ‘juvenile delinquents’. The overall rate of juvenile crimes has grown over the years.You will agree with me that once delinquency in juveniles has started, it is difficult to reverse.

Teens often forget that poor choices can lead to criminal punishments. Juvenile offenders are byproducts of industrialization and urbanization. Prevention programs need to be put in place before a delinquent behavior is reached.

In order to fix this problem, we must first look for the root cause. Social factors such as family structure, education and economic status, drug and substance abuse, domestic violence may lead to juvenile lawlessness. Teenagers are still immature, they are therefore most likely to mess up or commit crimes not fully in their control.

One of the major causes of Juvenile crime is a broken family.

Broken Family

Loss of love and guidance at the intimate levels of a family has a lot of social consequences for your children and the community. Minors from broken families tend to exploit others to satisfy their unmet desires, especially from their peers. A teen looks up to an adult for moral and ethical values.

Studies have shown that youths become violent when only when they are experiencing disturbance at home. High-crime neighbourhoods are characterized by a high concentration of broken families. The rise in violence parallels the rise in broken homes.

Single parents are often busy working, they are therefore mostly missing in action in a child’s life and are not able to spend quality time with their children. The juvenile justice system may respond differently to the children from a single parent rather than two parent families.

Let’s consider some of the juvenile crimes our teens are prone to in this era:


Shoplifting is the act of stealing goods from an open retail establishment while pretending to be a customer. You may conceal a store item in your pockets, underclothes or a bag and leave the store without paying. Contrary to beliefs that teenagers from low-income families are the most individuals prone to this, it appears to be most prevalent among the middle-class.

Habitual shoplifters report stealing almost twice a week and it is often the only crime they will keep committing. Shoplifters often target luxury goods contrary to your opinion of thinking that they steal toiletries or food as a necessity to survive. It is estimated that one in four shoplifters is a juvenile. This behavior persists into adulthood if not detected early.

Juvenile offenders in Texas tend to rise during the summer months. Penalties imposed on juveniles for shoplifting are intended to teach and correct rather than to punish. This is because the law considers minors as immature. The imposed penalty reflects the worth of the value stolen. For this reason, juvenile penalty varies from case to case. For instance:

  • Probation – Often 6 months but could be longer depending on a number of circumstances. It requires you to take specific actions such as obey reasonable orders from parents, guardians or requires you to stay in school and regularly report to the probation officer.

  • Release to parents – A first-time shoplifter may be pardoned by the court, given a lecture and a stern warning about shoplifting and its consequences and then released to their parent or guardian.

  • Counseling – A court may order counseling where appropriate. Counseling services may be provided by the state, family counselor or any appropriate individual.

  • Restitution – A court may order compensation to the property owner for the value shoplifted.

  • Diversion – Almost similar to probation, however, it only applies to first-time shoplifters. It may be achieved through participation in an education program, community service or meet other requirements.

  • Confinement – Applies to serious shoplifting cases, especially the repeat juvenile offenders. A court may order a minor to a juvenile detention facility, weekend detention program or can order a juvenile into a foster home.

Petty Theft

Theft is the act of taking something that doesn’t belong to you without asking for permission. Most states divide theft into two categories, grand theft and petty theft. Theft of property worth over 500$ is considered a grand theft while all other thefts lower than that are considered as petty theft. Many acts can be classified as petty theft. Here are some of the most common scenarios:

  • Changing price tags on items in order to pay less.

  • Not paying for food consumed in a restaurant

  • Placing an item in your pocket in a store without paying for it

  • Sneaking into a theater and watching a movie without paying for it

You may not consider some of the above as crimes but that doesn’t mean you won’t be charged if caught. Petty theft is classified as a misdemeanor even for first-time juvenile offenders in most states. It could result to felony for repeat offenders. In Texas, petty theft can be punished by a monetary fine or a possible jail term depending on the severity of the case.

Possible cases of petty theft can include:

  • Mistake – IT is considered a mistake if it is believed that the defendant once owned the item that was stolen.

  • Lack of intent – The defendant may believe that they were just borrowing it.

  • False accusation – The defendant may be wrongly accused or it may be a case of mistaken identity.

Other defenses may apply depending on the situation. Hire a qualified criminal defense lawyer from your region if charged since petty theft laws can be different in different regions.

Juvenile offenders in Texas tend to rise during the summer months. Penalties imposed on juveniles for shoplifting are intended to teach and correct rather than to punish. This is because the law considers minors as immature.


This is the deliberate destruction of public or private property. Penalty as a result of vandalism by a minor includes fines and up to a year in the local jail. If it results in serious damage to a property, it can be considered a felon. Many acts of vandalism are misdemeanors.

In order for you to be convicted in court, they must prove that you acted to destroy someone’s property without their permission. As the cost of damage increases, so does the severity of the crime.

Penalties for vandalism in Texas

  • Restitution

  • Fines

  • Probation

  • Diversion

  • Detention

All states do not have separate laws for vandalism and juvenile vandalism. Juvenile delinquents have a right to legal counsel just as adults.


Graffiti is a permanent marking, drawing, engraving or scratching property without the owner’s permission. It is a form of vandalism that can be prosecuted as a criminal act. Even though it is only damage on property, it can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the damage caused to the property.

Graffiti laws

A juvenile delinquent may face a number of charges.

  • Defacement of property (Penal code 594) – It states that it is illegal to deface a property with graffiti or any other material. Juveniles charged with this offense may be forced to keep the community graffiti-free for up to a year through community service

  • Freeway (Penal code 640.8) – Blemishing or defacing property near a highway or a freeway attracts a fine of up to 1000$ or you risk serving a jail term if you are a repeat offender.

  • Possession of aerosol container by a teen (Penal code 594.1) – It states that it is an offense for a minor to purchase etching cream or aerosol paint capable of defacing property. Penalty for this offense includes a 100 hours of community service for a period of 90 days.

When property damage exceeds $400, you may be charged with felony. However, there are exceptions in some cases.


Repeated and unwanted surveillance by an individual or a group towards another is called stalking. A stalker can be someone you know, an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend or a stranger. Is your teenager stalking an ex or a crush? Kindly inform them they are committing a crime.

Since the definition varies, a stalker may:

  • Wait at your favorite hanging spots

  • Drop off unwanted gifts at your place

  • Constantly call you and hang up

  • Damage your car, home or property

  • Send unwanted text messages or letters

  • Use social networks to track your current location

  • Spread rumors about you via the internet or by word of mouth

  • Make unwanted phone calls to you

In the United States, about 3.4 million people are being stalked and are mostly the youth between the ages of 18-24. Stress, anxiety, vulnerability, troubled sleeping patterns and lack of concentration at work or in school are some of the characteristics of a person being stalked.

Get in touch with the police if you are in immediate danger. Remember to keep important evidence such as text messages, videos, letters, photos or unwanted items, a record of times and places the incidents occurred. It is a traumatic experience, you need to develop a safety plan by keeping you friends and family in the loop of the incidences.

Stalker types

  1. The rejected stalker

Is a stalker who begins after the breakdown of a cherished relationship. It often begins as an attempt to reconcile. They may seek revenge not only to the immediate victim but also to their family and friends.

  1. The predatory stalker

Are often male and their victims are often females. Victims are typically strangers. Predatory stalkers often begin in order to achieve some type of sexual satisfaction

  1. The intimacy seeking stalker

This is a stalker who lacks intimacy in his/her life hence resorts to stalking. They act as a result of isolation and loneliness. Victims are usually their friends or total strangers. Their aim is usually to attempt to establish a connection with their victim.

  1. The resentful stalker

Are usually victims of some injustice or humiliation. Their victims tend to be strangers, acquaintances or their former partners. They often aim at revenge. They are usually considered to have some form of emotional or behavioural disorder.

  1. The incompetent suitor

Operates from a platform of loneliness, their goal being to initiate a sexual relationship rather than a romantic one. They usually stalk for a short period of time and are likely to suffer from poor social and interpersonal skills.

Stalking can be charged as a 3rd felony while as a 2nd felony for repeat offenders.

Drug possession

Depending on the amount of drugs a teen has, penalty ranges from a third degree felony up to a first. Alcohol, Cannabis and tobacco are the most commonly abused drugs by teenagers. These individuals use drugs out of curiosity, for fun or to feel part of a group.

No form of parenting skills can guarantee that your teens will never touch drugs. However, you can reduce their susceptibility to be involved in using one by :

  • Fostering a close relationship with them

  • Modeling an appropriate behavior

  • Advocating for a healthy approach to life

  • Encouraging them to have a variety of friends

  • Educating your child on drug and substance abuse

  • Having an open and honest platform for any discussions with your child

However, if you suspect that your child is using drugs:

  • Resist the urge to search their room for evidence

  • Don’t act on your first impulse, think first

  • Do some research about the drugs so that you have facts

  • Raise your concerns calmly

  • Don’t issue ultimatums

  • Try educating them on the health risks associated with the taking of this drug

  • If they are charged, support them but let them deal with their own consequences

Penalties for drug possession

  • Counselling – A juvenile delinquent can be ordered to attend a drug counselling session by a court with the hope of rehabilitating the teen.

  • Detention – Rarely happens, but if it does it involves home confinement, placement in a foster home with a parent or guardian or placement in a juvenile detention center.

  • Probation – In this case, the juvenile offender is required to comply with some specific rules such as participating in community service, family counseling or drug counseling. It usually lasts 6 months or sometimes even longer depending on the circumstances.

  • Diversion – The juvenile is allowed to comply with the specific diversion orders without having to attend proceedings in the juvenile court.

A juvenile case is handled differently from an adult case in Texas. Juveniles have separate and parallel criminal justice system and with just the right legal team, you can protect your teen’s legal rights. Let’s keep our teenagers away from crime!

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