My 16 year old daughter stole a dress from Urban Outfitters and was caught on 6/8. This is her first time in any of trouble, hopefully her last. She was given a ticket from an officer with a misdemeanor charge, (code 484a) and we are waiting for a juvenile court date. But yesterday I received a letter from law firm in Florida with a settlement offer. They represent Urban Outfitters. They are asking that I pay $350.00 (the dress was $70.00) and state"Upon receipt of full payment and clearance of funds, you will receive a written release of the statutory "penalty" claim.
They then state that if they do not receive payment within 20 days that they may take further action, and I would be liable to pay legal fee's, etc.
My questions are,if I pay this will charges be dropped, get her out of court, and this off of her record? Should I pay this? Will I still get another fine from the juvenile court?
Thank you for your time and consideration on this.
I look forward to your advice.
PS I'm not sure which kind of Law this falls under, so i took a guess....
2 Answers from Attorneys
There are two issues raised by your question. One is about the criminal charges and the other civil. It sounds like you are worried about the criminal. Only the State of California can resolve the criminal misdemeanor charges. You should have an attorney represent your daughter so that she will not have a record or impediment to college. Most likely you can work out a deal for dismissal if she does community service and pays restitution to Urban Outfitters (the cost of the dress). The Court would have some fines too. They may put her on probation, and once she completes all ( pays for the dress, community service, and good conduct after probation) dismiss the whole matter. Then have her record expunged. (deleted)
You should have an attorney review the authenticity of the law firm letter. The demand is excessive, especially since the dress it $70. It does not seem like it would be worth their time to file a lawsuit over the theft. In civil terms, it's called conversion. If your daughter pays the restitution, $70.00, they don't have any damages to sue over. On its face it seems like a scam. If they are truly trying to get you to pay to avoid criminal charges, it's unlawful extortion and obstruction of justice. Usually, the victim, Urban Outfitters, would relay their claims for damages to the District Attorney who will request the amount of restitution to be paid for the criminal charges.
Hope this helps.
I have heard that this is a common tactic as to shoplifting charges. The criminal code does allow the store to collect some money for the act of shoplifting, but these law firms just send out one notice in hope people will pay. If you do not pay, nothing happens.