You most certainly can hire an attorney to help you. There is a law in the state of Illinois which allows for civil action collection when there is a retail theft. Most people choose to ignore the demand. This demand is for money over and above any fine you pay in compliance with a court order. People may get a few more letters, each time asking for more, and then they stop. While the retailer can sue you, it is extremely rare for anyone to actually be sued. You do not owe any money unless you are sued and the retailer wins. This is a common ploy. Do not pay. If you do, you will be in the national retailers database which could affect your ability to get a job and could impact your life in other ways. If you are uncomfortable, hire a lawyer and have the lawyer write a letter. That should be the end of it.
Here is a good article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120347031996578719.html
The National Retail Theft Database is actually a voluntary list put together by different individual retailers. Further, any member that published the information on the list, can thereafter, remove it. Therefore, if you wish to have the entry removed, as you apparently do, your best bet would be to write a letter to the manager of the particular store and inquire as to what it would take for them to remove the entry.
Please go to this link:
If you are worried, and it sounds like you are, you should consult an attorney. A good criminal defense attorney can look at your situation with a trained eye and help you obtain the best possible outcome- helping you to make an informed decision regarding what to do.
You have two concerns. The ticket for retail theft, although it is an ordinance violation, and without fingerprints having been taken will not appear on a typical criminal history check, there will be a court record of it. Accordingly, you should fight the ticket as it sounds like you are not accountable for your friend's conduct (they would have to prove that you aided and abetted your friend).
The civil demand from the store (or its lawyers) is sent pursuant to an Illinois statute that permits them to pursue these claims. I believe that having a lawyer issue a claim denial letter supported by legal authority in your defense is the best way to get them to back off; they will no longer be allowed to write or call you directly after that and are far less likely to actually pursue the claim further. If you ignore it, they will likely continue sending demand letters, sometimes demanding an even higher amount each time under the guise of "attorney's fees." If you completely ignore them, you could risk having a judgment entered against you for an amount up to $1,000 in excess of the value of the merchandise plus attorney's fees and court costs if suit is filed. The Illinois statute actually requires you to pay their attorney's fees and court costs if they prevail. If you pay the demand, you are likely paying a claim that can be defended for a lot less money before a lawsuit is filed. Additionally, paying the demand will get you listed in a database retailers use to bar people from obtaining future employment.
You may get away with ignoring them, but in my opinion, there's a better, more cost-effective way to deal with this than either paying the demand or ignoring it. Free consultation is available. www.galivanlaw.net