What to do if 2 years ago I was arrested for shoplifting at a store but just know got a civil demand notice?

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What to do if 2 years ago I was arrested for shoplifting at a store but just know got a civil demand notice?

The total amount stolen was less than $100 and the charge was Petty Larceny. I had to go to court and was given an ACD, the terms of which required me to take a shoplifting course and server 10 hours of community service; I did both. As far as I know I no longer have a criminal record because of the ACD. Today I got a letter in the mail from a lawyer stating that the store is filing a Civil Demand against me for $259.40 in total. What is this about? I have done some basic research and found that generally nothing comes out of these letters if you don’t pay them, but I don’t want to get sued or arrested.

Asked on May 17, 2014 under Criminal Law, New York

Answers:

Richard Southard / Law Office of Richard Southard

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Typically these firms try to scare you into settling with increased demands of interest and legal fees but they rarely file suit.  The General Obligations Law says they can make a demand of five times the value of the property with a maximum of $500.  No attorney can guarantee you they won't sue so this sounds more like a personal decision you will have to make.  Also the Statute of Limitations to be prosecuted on misdemanor petit larceny (shoplift) charges is two years, so if it's been longer than that, you should have no fear of being arrested.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

A civil demand is a demand that you repay them for what you stole plus, presumably, legal fees (which would be why the amount is greater than what you stole). While they sue you over $259.40? Probably not. Could they sue you for the money--yes. If you steal from someone, they can sue you to recover the value of what you stole plus their other costs. Not paying a civil demand would not lead to arrest--"all" that is at stake is a potential lawsuit. Note though that *if* they do sue you, the amount they try to get may go up, to reflect greater legal expenses.


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