No you do not have to pay, and i encourage you to ignore this letter and the ones that will follow. This is one of the most frequently asked questions here. If you want to see the more detailed back and forth on this issue feel free to browse. My recommendation is that you ignore them and save your Internet time as well.
There is a statute that permits retailers to bring suit to recover the cost of investigating retail thefts that occur in their stores. I advise all my clients that receive the same letter you received to NOT send any money. I have never seen a suit filed to recover damages but I guess there could be a first.
Typically, I advise clients not to pay it. It is not due unless they seek a civil judgment and they rarely do so.
Michael L. Doyle
This is not intended as individual legal advice and there is no attorney client relationship established by this answer. It is advisable that you seek individualized legal assistance. This is not a substitute for hiring an attorney.
I think you will find a general agreement among most criminal defense attorneys to ignore these civil demand letters. I will also concur that I have never seen a suit filed to recover damages.
I'm not going to go so far as to say you do not have to pay. The law provides for this remedy (42 Pa.C.S.A. Sec 8308) and actually requires the retailer to give you 20 days to respond and pay. They cannot bring civil action if you do and they must provide you with written release from any further civil liability. They can bring a civil action if you don't and request in addition to the penalty attorneys fees and court costs. Its up to to decide whether they will - see my colleagues answers.
Alot of times for first time RT offenders i recommend paying the civil demand, BEFORE the hearing as the DA or cop or District Justice may be more willing to offer the first time offenders program (resulting in no conviction). But after the hearing, I probably would advise against it. They could sue you, but especially if they are an out-ot-town collections company, they most likely will not.