My friend was accussed of shoplifting by TJMaxx for wearing something in the store and walking around.
a. My friend has been humiliated and does not accept any liability. She had no intent to walk out with those things. What are her legal options?
b. Does this case automatically become a criminal case or the retailer can make it go away if the civil fines are paid?
4 attorney answers
a. Your friend needs to get over herself and her humiliation. She has no business "wearing a pair of shoes and a sweater that she picked up at TJMaxx" unless and until she has paid for them... end of that discussion;
b. No. It is not a criminal matter unless the cops are called out;
c. In regard to the civil penalty: civil penalty. Unless your friend voluntarily pays, then, in order for TJ Maxx to get the civil penalty they have to be able to prove (by clear and convincing evidence) that they were injured by your theft. The statute authorizing the civil demand (see F.S. 772.11 - a link appears below ) permits a retailer to seek a minimum of $200 in damages, but to do so they have to first file a civil lawsuit, which will cost them hundreds of dollars just to file, and then many more to prosecute. Their demand letter to you is essentially an offer to settle a potential civil lawsuit for $200.00, a lawsuit which has not yet, and which may never be, filed.
That said, whether or not you pay them is both a personal and a civil, and NOT a criminal defense related, question.
Please see: FS 772.11 - Civil Theft / http://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2012/772.11
I hope that I have been helpful in answering your question.
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This does not sound like it is a criminal issue yet and it sounds like the store recovered its merchandise. Sounds like they are trying to impose a claim for civil theft. I would recommend she have an attorney handle this for her because they could try and prosecute her criminally down the road. If there is no evidence that she was trying to actually take the items from the store, it is defensible both civilly and criminally.
Nothing becomes a criminal case automatically. The store will have to present their case to the State Attorney if they want charges filed. Please remember that the civil payment letter from the store will have no bearing on any criminal decision by the state attorney. You should hire a good criminal attorney.
Tell your friend to get a criminal defense attorney locally for assistance.
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