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Civil claim??? what is it? should i pay?

Clearwater, FL |

last month I was caught stealing from a kohls store. the cops were called and i was arrested. It i my only offence. I received a civil claims letter asking me to pay a ceritan amount much more then the item costs. Im unsure if i should pay it or just go to court. If i do pay it do i still have to go to court? and do the charges get dropped?

Attorney Answers 6

  1. In Florida, there is a law that allows for a civil recovery theft claim to be filed by merchants that is either for the value of the goods stolen or I believe $200.00. Years ago, I was talking to an acquaintance of mine who worked for law firm that sent out these letters. He had told me that many times the store will not file suit against a person in an attempt to collect the money, and that the client just "hopes" that people will pay. That being said, you should understand that whatever decision you make regarding this civil demand will have no effect on your criminal case.

  2. Paying or not paying has no effect on the criminal case. Typically, the costs associated with suing you if you don't pay far exceeds the $200 they are seeking.

    John S. Riordan, Esq., RIORDAN & HERMAN, PL., West Palm Beach, FL, (561) 650-8291. Mr. Riordan is a former Palm Beach County Prosecutor and an experienced criminal defense lawyer handling cases in both State and Federal Courts throughout Florida. The answer provided is for educational purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. You should consult an attorney for legal advice regarding the facts of your specific case and designed to help you with your personal needs.

  3. I would not pay it. I call it the shakedown letter. Paying it will not help your criminal case.

  4. One is a civil matter and the other is criminal. You are being pursued civilly by the store and with criminal charges by the State for the same incident, which is allowable. One has no effect on the other. Not paying to the store in response to their letter may subject you to a judgment that shows up on your credit report. You should make paying the money in the criminal case top priority, so you don't have to worry about jail time.

  5. The civil demand letter is separate and apart from the criminal matter. I generally advise clients to ignore these civil demand letters. You don't owe them anything. In order for you to owe them something they would have to sue you, (in some jurisdictions prove damages which they most likely couldn't do), and win. Even if they could win, the cost of pursuing this is substantially greater than any amount they can possibly recover so they usually don't. They send out these letters because it doesn't cost much and they are hoping that you don't know better and simply send them the money. Nothing will happen to you if you don't pay it and it won't have any affect on the crimi al case one way or another. Take a look at an article in the Wall Street Journal at the link provided below and make sure that you have an attorney for the criminal case. Don't say or do anything without an attorney.  

  6. This is a common question but there is some slight differences in the answers, which is interesting. There is no disagreement that the civil penalty have nothing to do with the criminal charge. You must go to court and get the criminal charge disposed of somehow. It won't be "dropped" if you pay the civil penalty or not. All the retailers have taken to making this huge demand letter because they're allowed to under the law. You might be able to negotiate a better deal than what they're asking, but they will get restitution in the criminal matter if you're found guilty or plead guilty or even enter a diversion program. So you should get a lawyer and do what he/she tells you to do.

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