As long as I have been doing this kid of work I have never, ever seen anyone sued for not paying on one of these demands. I have never heard of any other lawyers' clients getting sued either. If you get sued, it may be the first in Georgia history. I can't tell you what to do here, only that I have never seen anyone sued before on a shoplifting demand letter.
You need to hire a lawyer for the criminal case. Shoplifting is a crime of "moral turpitude" meaning it can label you as a dishonest thief, unworthy of belief, for the rest of your life- as well as affect your job prospects and other opportunities. You probably have several good options to avoid this. So I suggest you talk to a lawyer.
Whether you pay the CIVIL demand letter or not, it will have no affect on the CRIMINAL case proceeding forward. You need to hire a criminal defense attorney to defend the criminal case. These are 2 separate matters: one seeking money damages for their alleged loss due to the crime; the other is seeking a criminal conviction for the alleged act of theft by jail, probation, fines and court costs,etc. Get counsel to represent you.
I am trying to give you a general answer to your question. We do not have an attorney-client relationship by this response on the avvo website. I have not been retained to represent you. I am licensed to practice law in Kentucky and in federal court in this state and the Southern District of Indiana. You need to seek legal advice from an attorney licensed to practice in your area..
I agree completely with Mr. Cohen's response. I write separately only to point out that, if you were to get sued, you would only be held liable for the actual damages you caused as a result of your theft. For instance, if you damaged merchandise in your attempt to steal it, you could be held accountable for the cost that damage. However, Walmart is simply throwing at a figure that does not represent the amount of actual damages they could expect to receive. In most of these cases, there is no damage to the property. It is recovered and returned to the shelf for sale. You should not blindly pay a claim for damages to Walmart. You should retain counsel to represent you on the shoplifting case and ask for advice about the Walmart claim.
The other lawyers who have already responded have given you good advice; rarely will a company bring a civil lawsuit to follow up on a letter like the one you have received, and a criminal defense ilawyer can hep you identify all your options with respect to the criminal charges currently pending against you. It is also worth noting that Walmart is almost always very aggressive in prosecuting shoplifting cases. It will be in your interest to have a stong advocate on your side.
Best wishes, Kathleen Willcox Williams Attorney at Law 512 G Street Brunswick, Georgia 31520 (912) 275-6235 www.willcox-law.com This response is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship.
Wal-Mart and other merchants use 51-10-6 to extort $150 in "exemplary damages" out of alleged shoplifters:
"In any such action in which the value of the total claim, including exemplary damages, is less than $5,000.00, the property owner may recover compensatory damages, as described in paragraph (1) of this subsection, and additionally may recover liquidated exemplary damages equal to $150.00 or twice the amount of the entire loss sustained by the property owner as a result of the willful damage or theft offense, whichever is greater, and the cost of maintaining the civil action"
I've never seen them go to $425. I routinely tell people to ignore these letters.
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