I was with my friend at Walmart, and I handed him a hat that he then proceeded to walk out of the store with. We were asked to enter a room where we were questioned. I never signed any papers, the man took my license and copied my information. No cops were called though. He said he was letting us off easy. I was told I would receive a letter asking for payment upto 500$ which I am willing to pay. But if I pay the fee will I have to go to court or will this only stay within walmart's system? I would also like to know how this could effect my record? Thank you!
You will only have a criminal record if you are charged and convicted in criminal court. If charged, arrested and booked, your finger print information as well as the fact that you were charged will likely show up in national data bases, but will not show that you were convicted unless you are convicted.
The demand letter from walmart is a civil remedy for them and is separate from any criminal prosecution. Whether you pay it is up to you, but will likely have no bearing on whether you are ultimately charged. I have never had a client who was charged and Walmart who was allowed to leave the store before being charged.
I don't see what the basis is for a $500 payment for a hat which was returned. They did not lose anything. If they notified the police, chances are you and your friend might be charged with shoplifting or larceny.
I am licensed to practice in Massachusetts. As such my answers should not be viewed as a legal advice.
All the big chain stores send people demands for payment if you are suspected of shoplifting. They are not enforceable without a court order which they never obtain so you can ignore it. It has not hearing on criminal charges. You may get notice in the mail for a clerk magistrates hearing and you should hire a lawyer if that happens.
The fee demanded is the store's attempt to recover their costs associated with dealing with shoplifters. They want the shoplifters to help pay for security cameras and personnel, inventory loss, and administrative paperwork. Most attorneys advise not to pay this "civil demand". To enforce it, the store's lawyers go to small claims court, pay the filing fee, and summons you to court for a judge to order payment. It is usually not worth the time and effort, especially if the property was returned.
It does not affect your record, (if you even had one previously?), because you were not arrested and the store is not charging you with a criminal offense.
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