If I got a civil demand letter for $150 regarding a shoplifting incident, doI have to pay it?

UPDATED: Jun 14, 2011

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If I got a civil demand letter for $150 regarding a shoplifting incident, doI have to pay it?

No police; store got back $36 merchandise. Letter reads that I shall be liable to the merchant for a civil penalty and if the merchant institutes suit pursuant to this act, reasonable attorney’s fees and reasonable court costs. If I don’t pay they may advise their client to pursue other legal remedies. If I pay the amount, or settle this claim, the retailer will not take any further civil action against me. It further states that this is not related to any criminal proceedings, and his claim will have no effect on whether local authorities choose to proceed with further action.I have health issues and I’m unable to pay. Do I have to? What if I just don’t have it? What will happen?

Asked on June 14, 2011 under Criminal Law, New Jersey


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

If you don't pay, they can sue you; when suing you, they can try to prove their case and that they are entitled to the money. Generally, the person suing can't get reasonable attorney's fees (there are some exceptions, but those are unusual circumstances), though they can get court costs, which can be $30 - $60 (typically) for this sort of filing.

As the notice indicates, whether or not you pay should have no effect on potential criminal liability.

If you don't want to the cost and distraction of potentially trying to defend yourself in court, you could also try to settle--will they take less money? Take money over time? Etc. The issue for you is how much are  you willing to pay, potentially, to avoid possibly being sued.

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 AttorneyPages.com 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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