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

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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

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 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.


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