My friend and I were stopped for shop lifting in Walmart in Northern California for $142. Do we have to pay a fine AND go to court or is it one or the other? Also I have heard that Walmart sends a seperate fine, how much should we expect.
3 Answers from Attorneys
do not pay any civil demand, let the atty handle it (that will be handled through the court, not directly with the store) good luck!
Please see this blog post for more complete info http://www.theresahofmeister.com/blog/2012/07/i-was-stopped-for-petty-theft-and-then-i-received-a-letter-from-the-store-demanding-payment-should-i.shtml
The "fine" from the store is not a fine - it's a "civil demand". The law authorizes the store to demand up to $500 from you in a shoplifting incident. If you pay, it will not affect your criminal case and if you don't pay, it won't make it worse. If you pay, it just means they won't sue you in small claims court. Guess what? They won't anyway, even if you ignore their letters. I shouldn't say they would never sue you, but the odds of them actually following through are practically zero.
I assume they recovered the merchandise and put it right back on the shelf. Their loss is zero. Sure, they have some associated cost of the loss prevention person's time, but it's far, far less than the outrageous demand amounts they make. They know they would never recover that much in court, so it's not worth their time.
If there is any restitution for actual loss, you'll be required to pay it through the criminal case, so they'll be compensated for any true loss.
You'll be facing misdemeanor theft charges in court. Take it seriously. Get a lawyer - a theft conviction will haunt you for years. There may be ways to avoid a conviction with the help of your attorney.
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