Should I pay the civil action of $300 to Walmart? Can I get shoplifting off of my record?
Also, is there a way to get this wiped off of our records? This was a first offense for both of us. Can we participate in a class or some kind of program?
4 attorney answers
There is a good chance you will be able to have your records cleared up. It may take time though. Please see a lawyer.
There is a law in the state of Illinois which allows for civil action collection when there is a retail theft. Most people choose to ignore the demand. This demand is for money over and above any fine you pay in compliance with a court order. People may get a few more letters, each time asking for more, and then they stop. While the retailer can sue you, it is extremely rare for anyone to actually be sued. You do not owe any money unless you are sued and the retailer wins. This is a common ploy. Do not pay. If you do, you will be in the national retailers database which could affect your ability to get a job and could impact your life in other ways. If you are uncomfortable, hire a lawyer and have the lawyer write a letter. That should be the end of it.
Here is a good article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120347031996578719.html
The National Retail Theft Database is actually a voluntary list put together by different individual retailers. Further, any member that published the information on the list, can thereafter, remove it. Therefore, if you wish to have the entry removed, as you apparently do, your best bet would be to write a letter to the manager of the particular store and inquire as to what it would take for them to remove the entry.
The store (victim) has the statutory right to demand payment of a civil penalty from a person who has taken something from them without paying for it. If you choose to not pay the amount in the demand, you do so at your own risk. The statute gives the store the right to recover attorney fees in the civil claim. So what was once just a $300 claim can escalate substantially when their attorney fees are added.
Regarding your question about getting this matter taken off of your record, you can get it expunged if you meet certain conditions. If you had the theft charge dismissed or received court supervision, you can have it expunged as long as you have had no prior convictions for a criminal offense. If the charge was dismissed, you can petition for expungement immediately. If you received court supervision, you will need to wait to file the petition until two years after successful termination of that supervision.
I advise against paying the civil demand. The likelihood of being sued is small and paying will have absolutely no effect on the criminal prosecution. As a first offender retail theft can be expunged but the question of when you can file for it will depend on the outcome of the charges. If you participate in a deferred prosecution program (where the case would be dismissed at the end of successfully completing the program) you can file immediately although you might run into objections. Another possible disposition is court supervision. Supervision is not a conviction on your record so that's a good thing, but you have to wait 5 years after supervision ends before you're eligible to file to expunge.
This answer is provided for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Follow-up with a licensed attorney who regularly practices in this field is strongly recommended.
You can petition to seal your record after the requisite time expires. With respect to the the civil action, you are not liable unless they file a lawsuit resulting in a judgment.
The information presented here is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The Goodman Law Group, P.C. recommends that you consult an attorney with experience in your specific legal issue. Please contact us to schedule a confidential discussion of your situation. Such communication does not create an attorney-client relationship of any kind until a formal engagement agreement is signed by both you and the Goodman Law Group, P.C.