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Caught shoplifting at Whole Foods, arrested, have court date. What to do?

Bellevue, WA |

About a month ago I was caught shoplifting about 27 dollars worth of food from a local grocery store. I have no prior arrests or convictions. The arresting officer mentioned something about how it might qualify for diversion. I was wondering what is required for that and how I go about it.

The second question I had was that the retail store sent me a civil demand asking for 300 dollars. I was wondering how this works exactly. How is the amount for the civil demand chosen? I received another piece of paper with it that said something along the lines that the amount chosen could be between 100 to 650. Is the number just chosen arbitrarily? Can I just ignore this since criminal charges were already filed?

I dont know if it helps at all but I'll provide exactly what the letter they sent me said "Our records indicate that on (date) you took possession of merchandise belonging to Whole Foods Bellevue without paying for it. In accordance with RCW 4.25.230 a copy of which is attached, we are authorized to demand of you payment of actual damages plus a penalty in the amount of the retail merchandise (not to exceed $2850.00) plus an additional penalty of not less than $100.00 and not more than $650" The penalty was $27.65 Civil Demand was $300.00 Balance due $327.64

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Attorney answers 3


Don't listen to cops about how you should handle your case. He wasn't necessarily wrong here, but it's not a good policy. Look at my link below on how you can deal with police whenever you're in a similar situation.

Regarding the criminal charges, you need to get a criminal defense attorney. A theft charge is very, very serious. It's a conviction that will follow you around for the rest of your life. That's not to say you would be convicted of a crime, but the stakes are too high for self-help. There are many experienced criminal defense attorneys here, and if you can't afford one, you're also permitted a public defender. Work with that attorney for your next steps. They may be able to get you a deferment or misdemeanor compromise, both of which would end the case in a dismissal.

Regarding the civil demand letter, it's a request outside of the criminal matter so one doesn't necessarily reflect the other. If you retain counsel, they would also be able to work with the civil aspect and likely be able to resolve everything. Good luck!

If and until you and I sign an Agreement for Legal Services, I am not your attorney. These answers are provided for informational and/or novelty purposes.


Criminal convictions have serious consequences. If you do not understand what is going on you need to have a lawyer, if you can't afford your own attorney ask the court to appoint one for you, and talk to the lawyer about how to handle the case.

This response does not create an attorney client relationship and is offered for informational purposes only. Only a lawyer fully versed on the facts and circumstances of your case can properly advise you on the case. I am licensed to practice in Minnesota, not every state. You should always consult with an attorney licensed in your area on how best to proceed.


You should speak to an attorney as soon as possible, or if you cannot afford one, ask for a public defender. If you are charged with thet and have no priors, there are many options to keep the charge off your record.

The civil demand is a completely separate matter from the criminal case. They are allowed to request additional fees. An attorney may be able to assist you in negotiating with them. In addition, an attorney can discuss with them the possibility of a compromise of misdemeanor where the charge can be dismissed if the victim is compensated and agrees not to pursue charges. It is not a good idea to attempt to speak with Whole Foods yourself; you should have an attorney do this.

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