I'm a 20 yr old international student. I was caught shoplifting at Whole Foods in CA. I was taken to a room and I signed some paper. My drivers license, another(my country's) ID, and my face were photographed. No police was called or involved. They told me whole foods will send me a letter that will require me to pay min $50 to max $500. (It will probably be up to $400, they said.) They said as long as I pay whatever the amount they require, there will be no criminal charge left on my record. The items were returned and there was no damage.
1. Do I need to pay the amounts they require?
2. If I don't pay, will there be any criminal record left, and will my school find out?
3. I'm an international student; will I be kicked out, or will there be any problems to my visa?
Please help me.
Given the very serious consequences involved with your case, it would be in your interest to retain counsel now to intervene and give you the best shot at not having any charges filed.
You should retain the services of a defense attorney to represent you and possibly enter you in a pre-trial diversion program.
The advice and many other attorneys give is not to pay it. The worst thing they can do is sue you. It will cost them much more to sue they can get. It is very unlikely that they will sue and if they do you will have another chance to negotiate it.
If theboolicebwere not involved at the time of the incident, it is very unlikely they would be later. Could the store file a police report? Yes, but typically if they don't call when they have you detained, they won't.
The demand for money - It's not a civil "fine" - it's a civil demand letter. California law allows a merchant to demand up to $500 following a theft incident. These letters are typically sent by the store or a law firm acting on their behalf. They are all bark and no bite. If you ignore the letter, they have to make a choice - let it go or file a small claims case against you. I have never heard of anyone actually being sued if they ignore the letter. Why don't they do anything? Because lawyers cannot get involved in small claims cases and it isn't worth the store's time to pursue a small claims case over such a minor amount. There is one law firm in Florida that does nothing but these kind of civil demand letters on behalf of stores. They were quoted in a Wall Street Journal article as sending out over one and a half million letters a year, but they filed less than 10 lawsuits. Not ten percent. Not ten thousand. Ten. The odds are overwhelming that they won't do anything. If you choose to pay their demand, it just means they won't sue you, but it will have no impact on any criminal prosecution. Paying it won't stop criminal charges from being filed and not paying it won't make a criminal case worse or cause charges to be filed if they weren't going to be in the first place.
The overwhelming consensus is to not pay the civil demand amount. With your international student status, you aren't any different than a US citizen when it comes to the demand, but if it gives you some peace of mind that they absolutely will not sue, pay them. Consider it the cost of what you can hope was a first and last monumental mistake. Don't jeopardize your status in the US over something like this again.
The above answer is for general information only and is based on the information you posted. Every case is fact dependent, so to get a thorough analysis of your situation, you will need to consult face to face with an attorney licensed to practice in the jurisdiction where the incident took place. Do not conclusively rely on any information posted online when deciding what to do about your case.
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