If I called tried to negotiate a price on a civil claimregarding a shoplifting incident but could not do so, what should I do?

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If I called tried to negotiate a price on a civil claimregarding a shoplifting incident but could not do so, what should I do?

A few months ago I shoplifted, a mistake I regret. As I was walking out, I was stopped and taken to the back of the store into a little room where my information was collected and whatnot. Because I was compliant with the guy who stopped me, he told me that he wasn’t going to call the cops and basically just put me in the system, take back the merchandise (about $20 worth, completely undamaged), and let me go, and that nothing would go on my criminal record. I received a second settlement offer, even though I never got the first one. I’m broke and they won’t negotiate, what should I do?

Asked on July 26, 2011 Florida

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

The "settlement" offer you received is known as Civil Recovery Demand letter and if I were representing you in this matter - which I am not and this answer is not considered representation here - I would advise you not to pay it.  It means nothing in relation to a criminal action for petty theft (which is what the arrest if there were one would be for) and in a criminal action you would be asked to pay restitution for the item stolen in the amount of the theft- here $20.   Their actions here in sending the letter is no different than if you were involved in a car accident and the other party sent you a letter trying to settle a lawsuit out of court.  And if the letter in any way threatens criminal prosecution of any sort in exchange for a civil settlement they are guilty of extortion and you should let them know that you will seek help from the DA should they continue to harass you.  You have learned a valuable lesson here.  They could have called the police but they did not.  You were lucky this time.  Stay clean.


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