May 23, 2011 By Wallin & Klarich

In most cases when you are arrested for shoplifting at a store, you will probably receive a letter from an attorney demanding that you pay a certain amount of money. This letter is called a “civil demand” letter, which is sent to you as an attempt by the store to recoup its losses from the theft.

These letters can be very intimidating and can become increasingly threatening as they may demand that you pay for the value of the item taken, the amount of any resulting damage, or the cost of the security employees. No matter how frightening these letters may become – no matter how much they threaten to sue you – do not hastily pay the amounts that they demand. Know your rights first.

California Penal Code 490.5, which governs civil demand letters, states that you are only responsible for paying for losses, plus the cost of any damaged merchandise that the store would not be able to re-sell.

If the store was able to recover the item you may have tried to take, the store has not suffered any loss that would make you responsible. It is only if you damaged the item to the point where it could not be re-sold will you be responsible for paying. As for covering the cost of the store employee or loss prevention officer involved: they are typically paid a regular salary regardless of the theft, so it makes no sense for them to demand that you cover the cost of the employees.

However, it not wise to simply ignore a civil demand letter even if it is highly unlikely that they would actually file suite against you. Our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have been in practice for over 30 years and can help you in this matter. They have represented thousands of clients who have been accused of theft crimes and have successfully handled their cases which also included dealing with the civil demand letters. If you want the peace of mind that comes with not having to worry about the threatening letters that demand payment from you, call us today at 888-749-0034 or visit us online at We will be there for you when you call.

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