I got caught stealing from Target at a mall (I think $200 worth), i'm banned from that mall & that Target, I never left the store and I gave everything back willingly. The guy that caught me was very rude and was yelling at me, he was very intimidating. The cops were in and out of the room but didn't seem too interested in what I did. I was never arrested, they did take down my info on my license. I was sent home with a civil demand notice from Target itself, I recently received a letter from Michael Ira Asen, P.C. stating that "If I do not make a payment within 21 days from the letter sent date, Target will take further action." I'm nervous and I'll never steal again. I've read this letter is a scam but i'd like to know if Target will be sending me anything directly from them (like a fine) and if I can just do community service to replace the payment since I don't have a job.
I would hire an attorney to assist you with this as you could still face a criminal charge from the shoplifting. The letters are not "scams" but the question is whether they would take the time to actually proceed further if you fail to pay. An attorney can advise you about how to proceed and the potential risks.
Massachusetts has a law that allows stores to sue you for costs related to shoplifting, it's called a civil demand. This is completely unrelated to criminal charges and whether or not you pay the fine, it will not affect any criminal charges that come or not. If you don't pay the letter, the only repercussion is that you might be sued in small claims court. You don't owe them anything unless they take you to court and prove it. Since the law doesn't allow the store to collect attorneys fees, it means that they would have to pay a lawyer to fill out the complaint and attend the hearing. Since the cost of paying a lawyer almost certainly exceeds what they might get from a suit, the chances they will actually sue are next to nothing. The only repercussion form a suit would be that they would add the $40 filing fee to the cost they claim. You can always just admit it and pay it if you are sued. After 3 years they lose the right to sue at all. Because of the tiny likelihood that they will take "further action" most attorney recommend just ignoring these letters.
I am a Massachusetts attorney and answer questions based on Massachusetts law. The above answer is for educational purposes only and does not create an attorney client relationship or constitute legal advice.
You received what is known as a civil demand letter. When a person is caught shoplifting, the store can 1) send them a civil demand letter, 2) seek to prosecute them criminally, or 3) both. Usually for a person without a prior criminal record who has taken a small amount of merchandise, the store will only seek a civil demand. If you choose to not pay the civil demand, the store's recourse is to sue you in small claims court. Stores rarely, if ever, actually sue anyone for the civil demand because it costs them more to sue you than they could hope to recover.
Unless the store seeks to 1) charge you criminally, and 2) a clerk-magistrate issues a criminal complaint against you and 3) you are arraigned on that criminal complaint, this charge will not appear on your criminal record (aka "CORI"). All three things must occur in order for this charge to appear on your record. If the store only seeks a civil demand against you, they can only ask for money. Community service is only given by a criminal court.
Most likely the letter is not a scam. Target has a right to seek $250 as a civil penalty for you shoplifting in their store. That is independent of any criminal charges and shouldn't influence whether they apply for a criminal complaint against you. Just because you were not arrested, it does not mean that you won't be charged with a crime. It will just have to go through a different process. There are plenty of lawyers out there that can help you with this.
Hiring an attorney would be helpful, but it sounds like they are making a civil demand against you, community service is usually for criminal offenses the state imposes though. You could hire an attorney who could probably help resolve this matter. It would be good to know what target is demanding payment for if they have the goods that you never left the store- also to be on the safe side I would refrain from making any type of incriminating comments on this or any site or anywhere.
I usually tell my clients to throw those letters in the trash. If Target wants to sue you in small claims court, they will have to serve a summons upon you. These letters are misleading because they imply that you can avoid criminal liability by paying the fine. That is never the case. The police will probably summons you into court on a shoplifting charge whether you pay the civil demand or not. You will want to talk to an attorney about representing you for your criminal case. Good luck and let me know if I can be of any help to you.
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