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Can you ask for extended time or small payments for a fine for shoplifting?

Garden Grove, CA |

I got a fine for $475 that must be paid within 25 days but I don't have the money to pay it yet. The fine came from the store that I was caught shoplifting at. Is it possible to ask for more time or can I make small partial payments until its paid off? And if so do they usually allow it? And if i cannot pay within 25 days what will happen?

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Attorney answers 3


This is not to be confused with a fine attached to a court case. The money you have been asked to pay by the store is a civil penalty allowed for merchants who suffer shoplifters. It is civil in nature and is not connected to any case in court related to the crime of shoplifting. The short answer to your question is, I would suggest contacting the lawfirm or entity asking for the $475 and explain to them your intention to pay and how long you think it will take you to pay. They may be willing to give you a payment plan option to pay it as soon as your able.

Contributions on in no way create an attorney-client relationship nor are they intended to be relied upon as a course of action without having first consulted directly with an attorney, where the specific facts and circumstances of your case can be fully discussed.


I'm going to take a slightly different approach than my colleague.

The "fine" you're referring to is not a "fine", but it is a civil demand. The law allows a merchant to "demand" up to $500 in a shoplifting incident. Those civil demand letters are all bark and no bite. If you don't pay, they have to make a decision - either let it go or file a small claims case against you. Lawyers cannot be involved in a small claims case. Instead, the stores hire a law firm to send out intimidating letters, hoping you'll pay them hundreds of dollars.

I have yet to hear of anyone actually being sued for not paying the civil demand.

If you contact them and start negotiating, they'll know they have a "live one" on the hook and keep after you for all the money up front, larger payments, etc.

Your call - either call and see if they'll accept less, accept payments or work out something with you.... OR... ignore their letters and see if they don't just go away. If you are the one in a million that gets a small claims case filed against you, you can always settle then. It's just that the odds are overwhelming that they won't.

Why? Because it's frankly not worth their time. I assume they got the merchandise back and just put it right back on the shelf to be resold. Even assuming they could recover the costs of the store personnel that dealt with you, their time is far less than the hundreds of dollars they're demanding you pay.

Keep in mind that if there is also a pending criminal case (the police were involved, you were arrested or cited to appear, etc.), then the store will get restitution (if there is any) through the criminal case, so they'll be made whole that way. If there is a criminal case, paying this civil demand won't make the criminal case go away or be any different - they're completely separate. Similarly, not paying doesn't mean that charges would suddenly be filed or that it would be worse for you in any way in the criminal case.

The above answer is for general information only and is based on the information you posted. Every case is fact dependent, so to get a thorough analysis of your situation, you will need to consult face to face with an attorney licensed to practice in the jurisdiction where the incident took place. Do not conclusively rely on any information posted online when deciding what to do about your case.


A civil demand letter is different than a court fine. The main difference is where the payment is going. If it's to be paid to the court, then it's a court fine and yes you can make small payments. If the fine is being paid to the store, then I wouldn't be too concern about it. It is not likely that the store will be coming after you to pay the fine because economically it doesn't make sense to spend thousands of dollars to chase $475. Good luck.
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The response above is not intended as legal advice since it’s impracticable to provide thorough, accurate advice based upon the query without additional details. It is highly recommended that one should seek advice from a criminal defense attorney licensed in your jurisdiction by setting up a confidential meeting. Moreover, this response does not constitute the creation of an attorney-client relationship since this message is not a confidential communication because it was posted on a public website, thereby publicly disclosing the information, which is another reason to setup a confidential meeting with an attorney.

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