What to do if our 17 year old daughter was caught stealing an $80 coat last month?

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What to do if our 17 year old daughter was caught stealing an $80 coat last month?

She is not living at home but we got a paper from their law firm saying that they’d like to settle out of court for $300. If we refuse to pay this (we want her to clean up her own mess), are we responsible for whatever they decide to do?

Asked on June 26, 2013 under Criminal Law, Washington

Answers:

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

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

What you received is known as a "civil demand notice". These type notices are notoriouss for asking for far more than a cliam is worth. In this instance, at most you should only be required to pay $80, since that was the cost of the coat. And if the coat was retrieved undamaged, then the store's claim is less than that (if there is any claim at all). In a case such as this you can simply refuse to pay anythng or you can settle on a far lesser amount than that being askeed for. Since your daughter as probably not yet appeared in court, remember the judge can impose restitution if the situation warrants. Consequently, bring proof of any money paid regarding this civil demand.

That having been said, you may want to hire an attorney to see if they can get the charge dismissed for procedural violation or the like. If you do decide to go with legal reresentation, then pay no money until you have consulted with them first. They can then best advise as to how to proceed on all of this.

Tricia Dwyer / Tricia Dwyer Esq & Associates PLLC

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Hello. Sorry to learn of this legal problem. I urge you to have attorney assistance from an attorney licensed in your home state. I, in Minnesota, for instance, assist adults and juveniles in such matters.  Some attorneys are available seven days for emergency legal needs. Many attorneys will confer initially at no charge. Then, if legal work is performed, some attorneys will provide a reduced fee for financial hardship. Some attorneys may also assist you in limited scope manner to conserve legal costs. All the best.


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