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I was stopped for "shoplifting" at Wal-Mart, what can happen if I don't pay?

Sacramento, CA |

First off I did not shoplift and would admit if I did. I have epilepsy and have absent seizures and could have put something in my bag but I do not remember anything during these seizures. They are claiming I stole make-up but when they took it from my purse it was all my make-up they were claiming was theirs. It was all very used make-up as well, no were near new. They said I would receive a letter in mail for the amount I would owe them and I received that today. They say I owe them $300. They didn't show me the video of me taking anything, just me in the store looking at the make-up and then they stopped the video and wouldn't let me see any more. Do I have to pay this because I am low on money and cant afford this.

Attorney Answers 4


  1. A civil demand letter from a private law firm or a company does not create an independent obligation to pay. A communication from a court, or a civil lawsuit is a different matter and you should then hire a lawyer immediately.

    The above is general legal and business analysis. It is not "legal advise" but analysis, and different lawyers may analyse this matter differently, especially if there are additional facts not reflected in the question. I am not your attorney until retained by a written retainer agreement signed by both of us. I am only licensed in California. See also avvo.com terms and conditions item 9, incorporated as if it was reprinted here.


  2. If you weren't arrested, you don't have to pay anything. What you received is a civil demand. These have no legal force. These letters are sent by law firms intending to scare people into paying. It's nothing more than legal extortion. If they threaten to sue you or report you to the authorities, you don't need to worry. You will however continue to receive there letters for the foreseeable future.

    My comments are provided for general information purposes only. Nothing on this or associated pages, documents, comments, answers, emails, or other communications through Avvo should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. The information on this website is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing of this information does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Lawyers are licensed to practice on a state by state basis; do not act on information contained on this website without first speaking to an attorney licensed to practice in your state.


  3. If and when you receive a civil demand letter, you do not have to pay it.

    A civil demand is not a debt and you would only have to pay it if they successfully sued you. The likelihood of that happening is almost zilch.

    Paying or not paying the civil demand will have no effect on any criminal actions which might be brought against you.

    Frank W. Chen has been licensed to practice law in California since 1988. The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice for a particular case. This posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, consult with your own attorney.


  4. Hello,

    Do not pay this request because nothing has been proven against you either in the criminal or the civil court. There is no judgment thus no legal effect. This is a transparent attempt to extort money from you without the legal authority.

    Not knowing the entirety of your situation and without a full understanding of the facts, etc. this advice should be taken as general advice and not specific to your situation. You should fully consult an attorney before reaching a decison as to what to do. Good Luck!

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