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Should we pay the civil demand once it comes?

Orange, CA |

My daughter got caught stealing about $200 worth of merchandise at a local sephora. The police were called but the police officer released her and decided not to press any charges, and she said that the police officer said she wouldn't have to go to court or pay a fine. However sephora did say that they were going to be sending a letter home, with a bill. After some searching on the internet, I found out that they will be seeing a civil demand, but many people say not to pay the demand, since sephora never actually had my daughter sign a letter of intent of paying. I was wondering whether or not we should pay this demand, since the police officer just let her go and money is pretty tight right now.

Attorney Answers 5


  1. Best answer

    Most attorneys will advise not to pay these civil demand letters. That is what I advise most of my clients. There is no requirement to pay until they actually have a civil judgement against you. It is often not worth there time to pursue it in court. Further it has no bearing on whether a criminal case is brought. Finally, payment of this demand will enable them to place you an a national registry for retail theft.


  2. A civil demand letter creates no independent obligation to pay unless it is followed by a civil lawsuit, which almost never happens. Criminal matters, if they occur, must be taken very serously.

    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.


  3. As previously stated, your daughter does not have to pay the civil demand. If there is a civil judgment, she would have to pay that. But the amount they will recover is not worth the amount they would pay their lawyers to pursue it. You likely will not hear anything more from Sephora. However, even though the cops said she would not have to go to court, do not necessarily trust that. They may still decide to file criminal charges. If you get a letter from the court, then make sure you read it just in case they do file charges after all. Hopefully they won't. But, it's never wise to count your chickens before they hatch. Good luck!

    The above stated is advice only, and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.


  4. 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. Take a look at an article in the Wall Street Journal at the link provided below. 


  5. I agree with most of the analysis provided by my colleagues. I have had a different experience. My client was accused of shoplifting $50.00 worth of merchandise here in Berkeley. He was Hispanic but looked white, dirty blond hair and all. He was arrested and placed in jail for 4 days for a $50.00 dollar charge. At his arraignment, I pleaded him not guilty of shoplifting and the Judge decided to dismiss the case for a $50 dollar restitution. So, my client would have been glad to be given the chance to pay the $50.00 and not be arrested. He has not been the same since that day. The worst part of it was that he was really innocent. He had just forgotten his checkbook in his pick up truck. So, if there is no chance of being arrested which I doubt it being Orange County, I would be cautious and get a lawyer to find out if restitution can be made without signing any letters, which is the concern of most lawyers in the panel. Best of luck.

    This answer is provided by Manuel A. Juarez, Esq., 'El Abogado Hispano de California, and it is of a general context and is not intended to form an attorney client relationship. I am licensed only in California. This information is good only in California and it is not to be taken as legal advise in any other type of situation. Esta respuesta es del Abogado Hispano Manuel A. Juarez, 510-206-4492. Abogado Hispano de Accidentes, Bancarrotas y Divorcios de Oakland, Hayward, San Francisco, y California. Esta respuesta es solo para informacion general y no forma una relacion de abogado y cliente. Soy licenciado solo en el Estado de California.

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