If Igot stopped shoplifting a $13 item and I am now being threatened with civil court, should I pay the $400 that the store wants?

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If Igot stopped shoplifting a $13 item and I am now being threatened with civil court, should I pay the $400 that the store wants?

Asked on January 27, 2012 under Criminal Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Civil court can only award money damages, not criminal penalties. So you would only have money, not jail time, on the line.

If you shoplifted, you should only be liable for the value of the item you stole--in this case, from what you write, $13.00. You do not have to pay a larger fine than that.

Sometimes the store, if it has to sue you to recover its money, can also get reasonable legal fees--if you do not pay, there is a *chance* that they can seek to recover not just the $13 item cost, but also the lawyer fees. Thus, you could potentially pay more than $400, if they actually go ahead and sue you--but you could also pay substantially less, since the plaintiff does not always get to recover its legal fees.

You should probably offer, in writing--sent some way you can prove delivery--to pay them the value of the time you shoplifted. If you do elect to force them to sue you, you could use that to demontrate to the court that you made a good faith effort to repay the loss you caused.


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