To get the penalty they have to be able to prove (by clear and convincing evidence) that they were injured by your theft. The statute (see F.S. 772.11 - http://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2012/772.11 ) authorizes them to seek a minimum of $200 in damages, but to do that they have to file a civil lawsuit, which will cost them hundreds and maybe more. Their letter to you is essentially an offer to settle a potential civil lawsuit for $200.00, a lawsuit which is not yet and may never be filed.
That said, whether or not you pay is a personal, and a non-criminal defense attorney related, question
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The general consensus is to not bother with paying the fine. It would cost Wal-Mart a lot more money to file a law suit against you then the $250.00 they would collect from you. As Mr. Haber point out, they would need to show that they were injured by the theft, which would generally be proven by damage or loss of the merchandise that was taken. Good luck and stay out of trouble!
So, you think you can steal without punishment or consequences? Think again. There is no "limit" or safe Harbor on stealing or theft.
The $25 limit you are referring to maybe a store imposed limit. It may not even be a company policy, maybe just the policy of this particular Walmart store.
But by stealing, you are exposing yourself to being arrested, taken to jail, having to bond out, then being exposed to a criminal record that will last the rest of your life. You are also exposed to jail time and fines plus court cost that amount to a lot more than $250. Your picture maybe posted on all of the Internet arrest websites for everyone to see, if you were taken in. And worse yet, you may go "viral", and your picture may be posted all over Facebook and other websites for your friends to see.
When it's time to get a good job, you may be denied that opportunity because of the criminal arrest, even if you were not convicted. Think about all this before just casually "stealing".
I've represented people on theft charges for stealing items worth $.99 and $3.99! So do not think that stealing is a good idea. It is a crime and it is penalized heavily by many stores and by most prosecutors and judges around the state.
Compare Macy's for example, they have no mercy and will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law on any amount. In most Florida counties, the sheriffs office has a zero tolerance policy, and will not PTA you or release you on site, you will be arrested and have to go to jail, then post bond to get out. Later you will have to face the judge.
Be very careful and think twice before you steal - any amount - because you are exposing yourself to penalties that may hurt you a lot in the long run. Albert Quirantes, Esq. www.criminaldefendant.com
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Let me state this much to you:
You committed theft. If WalMart had prosecuted you--and it still can--then you would be paying a whole lot more in attorneys fees. If a jury were to convict you of this crime, then you would have to pay fines, court costs, and probably restitution coupled with community service as well as probably attending an impulse control or shop lifting course. That costs a lot more than what WalMart is asking.
Frankly, I charge approximately $2000 to handle similar misdemeanors, and there is no guarantee of success in any legal controversy. You could pay an attorney a significant amount of money, a jury could convict you, and you would still face all the costly penalties that I mentioned before.
No, you don't "have to pay" this demand, but you may invite a lot more trouble if you don't.