I accidentally placed a small plastic clip from a windshield wiper in my pocket (everything else was returned to the package) and was apprehended my loss prevention. I signed whatever paper because they said no charges and no police. The civil demand says its not an attempt to collect a debt. Will I get sued for not paying the $150 over a worthless accidental plastic clip? It seems like these amounts charged are a proportion of their losses and has nothing to do with what was taken. Since it was accidental and legally not theft can I just ignore it?Thanks for your help.
How do you accidentally place something in your pocket? Chances are, they do have a good argument for theft. That being said, I do agree that they are entitled only to their costs and the cost of the item. I would not suggest ignoring the civil demand. If they went through the trouble to catch you, they may go through the trouble to prosecute you. Since you signed that paper, they have all the evidence they need. Whether you get a lawyer or not, I would not ignore them.
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You should read the NJ Shoplifting statute regarding civil demands. It is within the law. You should retain an attorney in your defense. It may be wise to hold off on the civil demand until you speak with a lawyer.
I generally advise clients to ignore and disregard any civil demand letters. While the allow allows them to try and sue you the truth is tat you don't owe them anything until they do actually sue you and win. It is very rare that theynwouldnsue you because the cost of doing so is substantially greater than any amount they would recover. They would also have to prove damages which may prove to be difficult. They send out the demand letters hoping that you don't know better and simply send them the money. Additionally paying them or not paying them will have no bearing whatsoever on any criminal prosecution. If you are charged with a crime you should reach out to an attorney as soon as possible otherwise you can ignore it.
Multiple attorneys have answered the question multiple times so check AVVO archives for a very detailed discussion. The problem is not the civil demand. They can certainly can sue you for attorney and security costs as well as the bs clip. They likely will not it costs too much to sue and you may have a defense. The problem is the SOL on the shoplifting is 1 year. They can call the cops and file against you. It may be deminimus and you may have a defense but do you want the hassle. One of my colleagues says to disregard the demand.That is reasonable advise but you run the risk of a criminal charge. You may pay and they still can file but almost never do. You may not pay and they may not file-you win. Is the possible hassle worth $150. Your call. I tell may clients to pay. It can go either way.
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