If I got caught shoplifting, what will happen if I do not pay the civil demand requested?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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If I got caught shoplifting, what will happen if I do not pay the civil demand requested?

I did not sign any papers acknowledging that I had stolen, I did not give them my social security. The only thing they have is a photocopy of my ID. And my name and address in their system. They gave me a civil demand letter that requested a payment of $425. No cops/ security were involved. I was caught by secret shoppers. If I do not pay this fine, how far can they prosecute?

Asked on December 27, 2015 under Criminal Law, California


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

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

A civil demand is separate from any criminal charges that may be filed. The fact is that you don't have to pay a civil demand for shoplifting since most stores do not enforce them in civil court (i.e. sue you). The reason is due to the attorney cost and time it takes to file a civil suit just to recover $425. That having been said, if the store does file a suit and the judge rules in their favor, you could end up being responsible for the money and ordered to pay the store's attorney fees. Basically, this is a judgment call you will have to make. However, my advice is do not pay unless they actually file suit against you, not simply that you recieved a simple demand letter from a law firm.
Note: You will probably receive another letter and possibly for a higher amount but again you can choose to ignore it.

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