First of all nothing happens if you don't pay the civil demand so don't pay. It won't affect your credit or impact your criminal case. You may receive several threatening letters before they give up but stand your ground and don't pay.
Second any theft conviction reflect adversely on your character for honesty. It definitely keep you from getting a job in retail and may have impact in other areas as well. It will NOT disappear from your record after 7 years. You need to lawyer up and fight the charge.
You still may be quite able to get a job, as many employers do not do background checks.
So you were caught? Were you convicted? Did you enter a plea bargain? If not, there are many, many things you can do to prevent a conviction on your record.
The defense of such charges is often difficult if the client is caught walking out of the store without paying for certain items. However, like commercial burglary, the intent to steal may be missing. This can happen if the client inadvertently walked out due to mistake, such as being distracted by a cell phone conversation, an e-mail or a text message, or being preoccupied with an unruly child, or overcome with emotional trauma (i.e. the client recently was diagnosed with cancer and cannot stop thinking of the consequences). Often, the store security films can support such defenses. In unusual circumstances, a client’s medical condition can be a factor.
Resolving such cases on terms that a client finds acceptable is often difficult. The easiest terms are when the store signs a declaration stating that they have received the property back, been paid their loss prevention or investigation fees and do not wish criminal prosecution of our client. When this occurs, we can file a Motion for Civil Compromise under Penal Code §§ 1368 and 1369 to have the case dismissed.
Other times, we ask our client to complete an online shoplifting prevention course while the case is pending to show our client is responsible and genuinely concerned about what caused him or her to steal. We can then show the completion certificate to the prosecutor and hope for a reduction of charges to a disturbing the peace (either as an infraction or a misdemeanor), trespass (either as an infraction or misdemeanor) or, best yet, a delayed entry of plea or delayed entry of judgment. With a delayed entry of plea or delayed entry of judgment, the case is ultimately dismissed.
My colleagues are correct, however it does not sound like you were ever arrested or charged for the petty theft . No police or court= no criminal charges. Keep away fro store.
Andrew Roberts (818) 597-0633/ (805) 496-7777