I will defer to my colleagues licensed in WA. My firm belief and advice to clients is to ignore the civil demand letters. (Yes there will be more; once you recognize the envelope don't even open them before discarding. The increasingly high amount they are trying to get you to start paying on normally goes up.) If UO chooses to sue you civilly (very unlikely) then you should consult with an attorney. If you receive a criminal summons or other legal document showing that you have been charged criminally, likewise contact legal counsel. Good luck and let's see what the experts in WA have to say.
It appears they do prosecute. check out this link.
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My experience in VA has been that:
(1) demand letters and payment of them has NO impact on whether police are contacted or charges filed--its a legal form of shaking down the shoplifter IMV since the demands these days push north of $300 or $400 in many areas.
(2) you may receive a summons in the mail from the courts--in which case you need to contact a criminal defense attorney ASAP. If you receive no summons in the next few weeks--you dodged a bullet, consider the matter a good learning experience and don't shoplift again! Best of luck to you.
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If you pay the civil demand, make absolute sure that you get a letter in return that states that Urban Outfitters has been fully satisfied. That way, if you ever do get charged, you may apply to the court for dismissal under RCW 10.22.
I suspect that if you don't pay the civil demand, they will refer to the prosecutor's office for filing of charges. Although, they may do that anyway. Just because police weren't involved originally, doesn't mean that the store can't involve police down the road.
I must slightly disagree with my Tacoma colleague in that in my experience as a former public defender, it doesn't matter if you pay the civil demand, most retailers do both -- send a civil demand letter AND pursue criminal charges. AND just because the police did not come to the scene does not mean that charges won't be filed.
Donna Gibson 425-336-2255 I am licensed to practice in the states of Washington and Michigan . This information is provided as a public service to provide a general answer and should not be relied upon as legal advice. You should seek an attorney in your area who can look at your specific facts and give you a more definitive answer based on local laws, which can vary greatly from state to state.
I would advise you to pay it. As other attorneys have pointed out, most likely you will be charged with theft as well. As Mr. Kertchen pointed out, a common resolution to first time shoplifting cases is a misdemeanor compromise, which allows the case to be dismissed if you have paid the civil restitution and satisfied the victim. So if you are charged with theft, the criminal case will (potentially) go away much easier and faster if you have paid the civil restitution. Keep a record of all payments and get a letter stating you have paid in full.
My experience in WI has been that there is no benefit to paying the civil demand. There seems to be no relationship between paying a civil demand and prosecution. If you pay the civil demand you would not have to pay duplicate restitution in a criminal court.
The practice in Washington may be different and you have answers from Washington lawyers advising you to pay (and one advising to not pay). The laws in each state are different. You may want to read the links below on Civil Demand letters.
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