Legal Question in Criminal Law in California

To Whom It May Concern.

My Daughter was caught shoplifting by the stores in house security. They did not call the police because she was with her legal guardian. They released her from the store and she went home. A week later she received a demand for $200.00 from some law office claiming to represent Kholes. This, they said, is a "Fine" designed to help kholes recover some of the money spent on the growing cost of theft prevention. My Daughter (17 yrs. old. Still a minor) is in foster care and receives $8.00 a week as an allowance, coulkdn't afford to pay $200.00 to anyone. So she decided to ignore the notice and went about her daily business of school and boyfriend, etc.. Now, over a month later, the same law office has sent yet another notice with the added threat of: If you do not pay the $200.00 "Fine" they are going to take her to court.

Q-1) Does she really have to pay this, so called, Fine, demanded from a private company. Not ordered by any Court or Judge??

Q-2) Can they still take her to Criminal Court and file charges against her, over a month after the incident??

Q-3) Can they take her to Civil Court and sue her for the $200.00. Even though she is still a minor??

Thank You.


Michael Petersen

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Asked on 5/03/13, 4:37 am

3 Answers from Attorneys

Joe Dane Law Office of Joe Dane

It's not a civil "fine" - it's a civil demand letter. California law allows a merchant to demand up to $500 following a theft incident. These letters are typically sent by the store or a law firm acting on their behalf. They are all bark and no bite.

If you ignore the letter, they have to make a choice - let it go or file a small claims case against you. I have never heard of anyone actually being sued if they ignore the letter. Why don't they do anything? Because lawyers cannot get involved in small claims cases and it isn't worth the store's time to pursue a small claims case over such a minor amount.

There is one law firm in Florida that does nothing but these kind of civil demand letters on behalf of stores. They were quoted in a Wall Street Journal article as sending out over one and a half million letters a year, but they filed less than 10 lawsuits. Not ten percent. Not ten thousand. Ten. The odds are overwhelming that they won't do anything.

If you choose to pay their demand, it just means they won't sue you, but it will have no impact on any criminal prosecution. Paying it won't stop criminal charges from being filed and not paying it won't make a criminal case worse or cause charges to be filed if they weren't going to be in the first place.

If the police were not called when the incident occurred, the odds are overwhelming that they won't be later.

Please pardon any typos - posted via mobile device.

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Answered on 5/03/13, 7:19 am

Terry A. Nelson Nelson & Lawless

You should by now have learned that whether you pay the company or not, they can and generally will file criminal charges. However, if the police were not called at the time, it is less likely the DA will accept the charges later. You'll find out soon enough. Then, if serious about hiring counsel to help in this, and if this is in SoCal courts, feel free to contact me. Iíll be happy to help fight and get the best outcome possible, using whatever defenses and sympathies there may be.

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Answered on 5/03/13, 3:15 pm
Anthony Roach Law Office of Anthony A. Roach

A lawyer cannot threaten criminal charges over the civil fine. He can threaten to sue, but he cannot threaten criminal charges. That is up to the prosecutor when the police present the case to him or her.

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Answered on 7/18/13, 6:21 pm

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