Failing to pay the CIVIL demand for $300 will not necessarily result in any criminal charges being filed. Conversely, paying the $300 will not guarantee that no criminal charges will be filed. If you fail to pay, there will NOT be a warrant out for your arrest: if Wal-Mart decides to seek criminal charges against you, it will first file an application for criminal complaint with the local district court, and the clerk will schedule a clerk's hearing to decide if a criminal complaint should issue against you. You will receive a summons in the mail to appear at the clerk's hearing. This summons is not an arrest warrant. If the complaint is issued, an arraignment will be scheduled, and you will receive a summons to appear for the arraignment. If you fail to appear at the arraignment, a warrant will issue.
A conviction for first offense shoplifting does not carry the possibility of jail time, and the maximum penalty for a conviction is a $250 fine. If you have no prior record, most prosecutors will dismiss the matter at arraignment upon a fine of $100-$200. However, you should try to have this matter disposed of at the clerk's hearing, because if you are arraigned, the shoplifting charge will appear on your record, even if it is dismissed the same day. If the matter is resolved at the clerk's hearing, no complaint will issue, you will never be arraigned, and the matter will not appear on your criminal record. Do not blow off the clerk's hearing because it is your first and best chance to resolve this case with the least amount of damage.
Best of luck,
Dominic Pang (617) 538-1127
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