It is very difficult to predict with certainty what will happen if you fail to pay a civil demand letter in a shoplifting case. It is possible that the store could report the matter to the police and that charges will be filed against you.
Depending on the amount in question the D.A. has up to one year to file misdemeanor charges against you, longer in the case of felony charges.
The fact that the store has actually taken the time to engage a firm to send you a civil demand letter suggest that they mean business. The store could choose to sue you in civil court - that wouldn't be on your criminal record but it would likely result in a civil judgment against you.
Why take the chance? You avoided being arrested and charged - this an opportunity to put the matter behind you once and for all with no record existing, either criminal or civil.
This answer is for general informational purposes only and shall not constitute legal advice. I have answered a question on a public forum which does not establish any attorney-client relationship. For a more detailed legal analysis you should consult with a legal professional in your area.
Short answer is not much will happen. The civil demand is separate from the criminal case and the amount in question is $400. It is likely more expensive to attempt to sue you in small claims court. I cannot guarantee that charges will not be filed, but that is my answer regarding the civil demand.
There are not enough facts here to provide a meaningful answer since it appears you signed some type of agreement. I suggest contacting an attorney to review the agreement, the facts of the case and to develop a strategy. Many reputable attorneys offer a free consultation. I suggest meeting with at least one soon while the facts are still fresh in your mind. Not only for that reason, but by contacting an attorney early you have an opportunity to confer with the prosecution beforehand with the possibility of having the charges rejected altogether before the court date.
The response above is not intended as legal advice since it’s impracticable to provide thorough, accurate advice based upon the query without additional details. It is highly recommended that one should seek advice from a criminal defense attorney licensed in your jurisdiction by setting up a confidential meeting. Moreover, this response does not constitute the creation of an attorney-client relationship since this message is not a confidential communication because it was posted on a public website, thereby publicly disclosing the information, which is another reason to setup a confidential meeting with an attorney.
Hold onto it in the unlikely evenet criminal charges are filed, as payment of the civil demand can sometimes be used as a negotiating tool in criminal court, but don't be in any rush to give in to the empty civil demands.
If only you paid for the item you shoplifted....
Law Offices of David Shapiro 3555 4th Avenue San Diego, CA 92103 (619) 295-3555