Should I pay or ignore a civil demand letter regarding being caught shoplifting?

UPDATED: May 31, 2012

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Should I pay or ignore a civil demand letter regarding being caught shoplifting?

I was caught shoplifting and was taken to the back where the loss prevention guy took down my SSN and took informatioin off my driver’s license. I gave him the product back which was out of the package. I doubt it will be resellable. I was not arrested and the police were not involved. I was allowed to leave after I signed 2 papers, one acknowledging that I stole the items and that I was banned from the store. Another regarding civil demands. I assume I can still be charged at any time for petty larceny right? Should I pay or ignore the civil demands letter if I get one?

Asked on May 31, 2012 under Criminal Law, Virginia


Kevin Bessant / Law Office of Kevin Bessant & Associates

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The Civil Demand Letter is a civil process in which you can be ordered to pay up to ten times the amount of the item stolen, with a maximum penalty being $200.00 in most states. Failing to pay the Civil Demand means that the store can sue you for this amount in district court, and include any attorney fees as well for doing so, but be mindful that most larger retail stores do not take this measure because it is often not cost effective for them to do so. Whether you decide to pay or ignore the Civil Demand, be mindful that you can still be charged criminally for shoplifting. If your were not arrested at the store's location, then you may receive a notice to appear in court on the matter within the next few weeks.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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