So here's the story. I shoplifted about 30 dollars worth of items and they caught me on camera (so stupid because it was just some makeup that I could have easily bought). They didn't call the police but they took my picture and got my personal information (SSN, signature, address, etc.). They told me they would send me a civil demand but it hasn't come yet, so I call the story and they tell me that my "petty theft is pending." This really freaked me out because they told me I wasn't going to be charged for anything since I wasn't arrested and the police weren't called. Will I have to get an attorney? I'm a college student and I really don't want criminal charges against me.
If the police weren't called and you weren't arresstted then you dont have criminal charges
Ending against you. I generally advise clients to simply ignore any civil demand letter that they might receive. Unles they sue you and win you dontbowe them anything they generally dont sue because the costbof doing so is substantially greater than any amount the can ever hope to recover. They send out these letters hoping that you don't know better and simply send them the money. Even if you do decide to pay them it wouldn't effect or have any bearing on any criminal case anyway. Ignore the civil demand letter butbifnyou receive anything from the police or the courts contact an attorney right away.
If the police were not called it would appear that no criminal charges were filed. Do not pay any civil demand letter from store.
First of all, don't pay the civil demand if you receive one. This will not have any effect on whether or not you are charged. The decision to file a criminal complaint rests solely with the prosecutor. It is possible that the store made a report to the cops. If the cops took a report and forwarded it to the prosecutor, you could still be charged. However, the more time that elapses, the less likely you are to be charged. The statute of limitation on a misdemeanor in CA is one year. If you are charged, you will most likely receive a notify letter in the mail informing you of the date and time of your arraignment. If you receive such a letter, contact an attorney.
It is possible that a criminal charge may be filed pursuant to PC 837 (ie. private person arrest). If the store forwards the report to the police who then forward to prosecutor, it is possible to get a notification (ie. by way of mail) of charges and an arraignment date. If that happens, then get an attorney. Depending on circumstances, some consider hiring an attorney pre-filing in order to try to work out a civil compromise with the store in order to persuade them not to push on it (particularly if there are professional license or strong work considerations at hand). Not all stores are willing to enter into a civil comprises though, and often attorneys will wait to see the results of the filing before trying to enter into a civil compromise.
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