Do I need to pay a "Civil Demand" from Wal-Mart's lawyer?

Asked over 1 year ago - Lancaster, PA

Last year, on approximately May 28th, 2012, I made the big mistake of stealing from Wal-Mart. It was a 22$ bathing suit, and looking back now I realize it was a stupid idea. This was my first ever offense. They took me into the front of the store and called the police. I had to pay a fine from the court for 300$, which I completely paid off back in November (payment plan).

Today I received a letter from Michael Asen law offices stating that I needed to pay 150$ in civil restitution. Do I have to pay this civil demand? Why would they send it almost 9 months after the incident? Like I said, I paid my fine with the court and the law has not bothered me about it. I was always on time with my payments. And now suddenly I have a 150$ demand for "damages". Help please?

Attorney answers (6)

  1. Robert C. Keller

    Contributor Level 20

    13

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . There is a statute that permits retailers to bring suit to recover the cost of investigating retail thefts that occur in their stores. I advise all my clients that receive the same letter you received to NOT send any money. I have never seen a suit filed to recover damages but I guess there could be a first.

  2. Michael Lawrence Doyle

    Pro

    Contributor Level 20

    13

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Typically, I advise clients not to pay it. It is not due unless they seek a civil judgment and they rarely do so.

    Michael L. Doyle
    (215) 900-5565

    This is not intended as individual legal advice and there is no attorney client relationship established by this... more
  3. Douglas Holbrook

    Contributor Level 17

    14

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . I think you will find a general agreement among most criminal defense attorneys to ignore these civil demand letters. I will also concur that I have never seen a suit filed to recover damages.

  4. William A. Jones Jr.

    Pro

    Contributor Level 20

    12

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . No you do not have to pay, and i encourage you to ignore this letter and the ones that will follow. This is one of the most frequently asked questions here. If you want to see the more detailed back and forth on this issue feel free to browse. My recommendation is that you ignore them and save your Internet time as well.

  5. Eric Michael Gibson

    Contributor Level 9

    9

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . I'm not going to go so far as to say you do not have to pay. The law provides for this remedy (42 Pa.C.S.A. Sec 8308) and actually requires the retailer to give you 20 days to respond and pay. They cannot bring civil action if you do and they must provide you with written release from any further civil liability. They can bring a civil action if you don't and request in addition to the penalty attorneys fees and court costs. Its up to to decide whether they will - see my colleagues answers.

  6. William Ray Pelger

    Contributor Level 13

    9

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Alot of times for first time RT offenders i recommend paying the civil demand, BEFORE the hearing as the DA or cop or District Justice may be more willing to offer the first time offenders program (resulting in no conviction). But after the hearing, I probably would advise against it. They could sue you, but especially if they are an out-ot-town collections company, they most likely will not.

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