If the police were not called and you were not arrested or given a piece of paper advising you of a cour date then the likelihood of this matter going to court is nil. As far as the letter is concerned it is wha is known as a civil demand letter. If Walmart got their merchandise back my advise is generally to ignore the letter. They send the.etter through an attorney hoping that you will not know better and feel intimidated and send them the money. The truth is that they would have to sue you, win and then try to collect on the judgment. The most they could ever receive would be 500 and the cost to them to pursue it is substantially greater thant that and as such they never do it.
If the police were not called you got very lucky. The "fine" they told you about is a civil demand. NY law allows a store to seek 5 times the amount of the goods up to $500. I always advise my client to ignore the letters and calls because I've never seen a store actually sue to collect.
I am a former federal and State prosecutor and now handle criminal defense and personal injury/civil rights cases. Feel free to check out my web site and contact me at (212) 385-8015 or via email at Eric@RothsteinLawNY.com. The above answer is for informational purposes only and not meant as legal advice.
Legally, the store can still file a complaint with the police and you can be prosecuted until the Statute of Limitations runs out. It is however unlikely to happen because if they wanted to involve the police they would have done so already. There is no fine if the police were not involved. It is a civil demand under NY General Obligations law which allows companies to recover money from shoplifters even if the merchandise was recovered. The demand ranges from $75 - $500 depending on the value of the property taken.
I am a former prosecutor with over 15 years experience specializing in criminal law cases.
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