Is retail fraud a civil or criminal matter?

My daughter was arrested for retail fraud. She recently recieved a letter from a lawyer requesting a payment for civil proceedings. However, the letter states that this will not prevent any criminal prosecution. Is this a scam? If not, what are the advantages or disadvantages of paying this fee?

Asked on October 24, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, Michigan

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Defrauding a person or entity out of money or goods is *both* a crime and a civil tort. That is, you can prosecuted for it; you can also be sued for the value or worth of whatever you took (and possibly for additional costs or amounts, like court fees).

The two systems, criminal and civil, are separate, and whether or not an action is taken in one does not affect whether or not an action can be taken in the other. So, for example, you can be prosecuted criminally even if you have voluntarily repaid what you took.

The advantage of repaying is threefold:

1) If they get their money, they are less likely to bring it to the attention of the authorities or press charges.

2) Repayment shows contrition; even if charged, it will likely help getting a lesser punishment or sentence.

3) If you don't repay, you can be sued, and theoretically (if its a good case against you) end up repaying all the money later anyway, after you lose--and after having wasted money on defending yourself as well.


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