How long does it take for my civil demand letter to come in? And after I pay it do I still have to go to court

I was caught shoplifting and no cops were involved. They told me I would get a civil demand in the mail but after I pay it are they still going to take me to court?

Asked on December 16, 2016 under Criminal Law, Washington

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

There is no specified timeframe in which a civil demnd letter must be sent. However, as a practical matter, a civil demand need not be paid. The fact is that most stores do not sue to enforce them in civil court since they typically aren't worth the time and expense. That having been said, if a suit is filed and a judgement is awarded, you could end up being liable for the money and ordered to pay the store's legal fees. The fat is that, many attorneys advise not to pay a civil demand unless the store actually files suit. Just be aware that you will likely receive another demand letter, and possibly for a higher amount, but again you can choose to ignore it. If you do decide to pay, keep a copy of your method of payment for your records.

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

There is no specified timeframe in which a civil demnd letter must be sent. However, as a practical matter, a civil demand need not be paid. The fact is that most stores do not sue to enforce them in civil court since they typically aren't worth the time and expense. That having been said, if a suit is filed and a judgement is awarded, you could end up being liable for the money and ordered to pay the store's legal fees. The fat is that, many attorneys advise not to pay a civil demand unless the store actually files suit. Just be aware that you will likely receive another demand letter, and possibly for a higher amount, but again you can choose to ignore it. If you do decide to pay, keep a copy of your method of payment for your records.

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

The amount of time before you receive the demand letter depends on the store and its attorneys.
The amount that you will be required to pay will be considerably more than the value of the stolen items.  If you pay the amount demanded in the letter prior to the deadline, that should end the matter.
If you fail to pay the amount requested in the letter by the deadline, the store will pursue criminal prosecution.  The letter will explain everything.


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