This letters you may receive from an attorney or collection agency are civil demand letters. You don't owe them anything. In order for you to owe them something they would have to sue you and win. Doing so would cost them more than they can ever hope to recover and as such they usually don't pursue it. They send out these letters hoping that you don't know better and simply send them money. I generally advise clients to ignore these letters. Don't worry, nothing will happen to you for ignoring it. If on the other hand you receive something from the court/police/prosecution don't ignore that and contact an attorney ASAP for assistance. This doesn't effect you travel abilities, You can go anywhere you want to,
There appear to be a number of questions regarding shoplifting issues that appear on many different legal question and answer sites. This memorandum outlines the consequences associated with shoplifting in Massachusetts.
If one is stopped in a store by store security any number of things can occur. The store could have you sign an agreement banning you from the store. They can call the local police who can arrest you or have you summonsed to court. The store may ask you to sign an acknowledgment that you are banned from the store and later forward a letter to you requesting that you pay them up to as much as $500 for the shoplifting violation. It is a civil matter and will not appear on any criminal record.
If the local police have been brought into the situation you could be arrested or summonsed to court. If arrested and charged with shoplifting of less than $100, the maximum penalty for the first offense is a fine not to exceed $250; the maximum penalty for a second offense is a fine not to exceed $500; the maximum offense for the third offense or more is a fine not to exceed $500 and jail not more than two years. If the goods are worth more than $100 you could be charged with larceny. If the larceny is less than $250, it is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $300 or jail for not more than one year. If larceny is for more than $250, it is a felony punishable up to five years in state prison or by a fine of not more than $25,000. If you are arrested a criminal complaint will issue and a criminal record will be created.
If the store or the local police choose to summons you to court, the summons is likely to be for a clerk magistrate hearing. That hearing will determine whether or not a criminal complaint will issue for shoplifting or larceny. It is imperative that an attorney be present with you at the clerk hearing. It is in your best interest to avoid having the criminal complaint issue. An experienced criminal defense attorney can assist you in that regard.
There are a number of additional questions I would have for you to be able to adequately advise you based on the above. That said:
1) If the store recovered the perfume, there is essentially no restitution owed. However, per the MA statutes, Sephore is allowed to collect up to $500. They will likely be sending you letters asking you for money, and a collection agency will get involved. If you have an attorney at the time you receive the letters, do not respond! Simply forward the letters to your attorney and ask them to handle the collection agency/Sephora.
2 & 3) Court may likely be involved. Although you did not receive documentation that day, you may be getting a summons in the mail on for a hearing on an Application for Criminal Complaint. My best advise is to hire an attorney to attend this hearing with you and he may be able to get the case dropped before formal charges are filed. Whatever you do, do NOT miss the hearing!
4) Not necessarily. Even if Sephora is "made whole" by your paying the fine, the DA is still able to prosecute your case.
5) This all depends on whether you have received formal charges and whether a formal complaint has been filed.
Mike Bowser, Esq.