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Caught stealing from WalMart... Stipulations?

Boston, MA |
Filed under: Criminal defense

I am 21 years old. I got caught stealing a $5 cell phone screen cover from walmart. (Yes, I know it was stupid). There were no police called and the security guard kept saying that he was doing me a favor here by not contacting the police. All that happened was I gave back the merchandise, signed some papers, and got a letter saying that I will be contacted by the company's law firm. This is the last thing I need on my record. I am a good kid, at a top university looking to get into banking. What is the extent to which this can go and end up on my record? What are my options for dealing with this? How much in costs am I looking at? Note, the store was under construction and they didn't catch me on video, or in person, someone must have just noticed the empty box and me walking away.

Attorney Answers 4


You are very lucky that the guard cut you slack. Learn from it. What documents did you sign? Did you read them? Did you receive copies? The documents should spell out the warning and conditions of not reporting the crime.

If the police weren't called, and if the guard didn't report it, then you may get a letter from Walmart stating that you are a) on their list of possible problems or b) prohibited from going to that Walmart. Certainly, their anti-theft department will have your name and will not be so quick to dismiss you next time.

As far as your record is concerned, you don't create a criminal record if no charges were filed.

Providing users with information is not intended to create an attorney/client relationship. However, if in reading my response, you are interested in retaining me to represent you, please do not hesitate to contact me.

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The only thing I signed was a sheet regarding information about the incident like the date, time, and item. I wasn't required to sign anything else.


You may well get a "civil demand letter" ordering you to pay a civil penalty; probably $500. The consensus on this forum is that such letters may be ignored.

In the unlikely event that charges are brought, the MA and Boston bar associations can assist you with referrals; each often has a "dial a lawyer" day when you could call for advice.

The foregoing is for general information purposes and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

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The fact that the act was not caught on video is of no consequence; you handed the phone back at some point, and signed something, probably to the effect admitting that you took the store's merchandise. The good news is that you did get a big break from store security. If the store never files for a criminal complaint against you, you do not run the risk of getting a criminal record. The store's loss prevention department and the law firm who handles the store's civil demand letters rarely coordinate, i.e. if you do not pay the civil demand, it is unlikely that the store will seek a criminal complaint in retaliation.

Some people prefer the peace of mind that comes with paying the civil demand amount (a number between $50 and $500), but know that the store's recourse against you should you refuse to pay is filing a civil small claims action against you in your local court. Filing a small claims against you to recover at most $500 plus the filing fee is simply not cost effective for the law firms that send out these civil demand letters. The money is made off the 1 out of 100 people who pays up, not from suing the 99 who refuse to pay.

Good luck,

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By not contacting the police and, hopefully, the company not seeking a cfriminal complaint against you, this is not on your CORI (criminal record). There are consequences, however, for your actions. What you signed was most likely an admission that you took the phone. It MAY also be an agreement that you will pay the money requested by its law firm. As Attorney Pang indicated, it will be somewhere between $50 and $500. If you took a copy of what you signed, read it...that way, you should know what to expect. Paying money may be well worth it in order to keep your record clean.

Valerie Semensi @ 781.383.1940

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