What is the California civil fine for shoplifting valued at $38? 7 Answers as of February 07, 2013

The store did not notify the police. Loss prevention took care of it and is charging my friend $475 even though the items valued less than $50. Is this price reasonable/accurate?

Ask a Local Attorney. 100% Anonymous. Free Answers.

Free Case Evaluation by a Local Lawyer: Click here
Steven Alpers | Steven Alpers
There is no specific civil fine. That is not fair or reasonable. Most small claims judges will only give a small fine if you fight the case. Usually related to loss prevention hour or so of work on the case.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 2/7/2013
Law Office of Peter F. Goldscheider
Law Office of Peter F. Goldscheider | Peter Goldscheider
I would make sure that they did not refer it to the police before doing anything. If they did not your friend was very lucky and I would pay the amount charged.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 2/1/2013
Law Office of Joe Dane
Law Office of Joe Dane | Joe Dane
It's not a civil "fine" - it's a civil demand letter. California law allows a merchant to demand up to $500 following a theft incident. These letters are typically sent by the store or a law firm acting on their behalf. They are all bark and no bite. If you ignore the letter, they have to make a choice - let it go or file a small claims case against you. I have never heard of anyone actually being sued if they ignore the letter. Why don't they do anything? Because lawyers cannot get involved in small claims cases and it isn't worth the store's time to pursue a small claims case over such a minor amount. There is one law firm in Florida that does nothing but these kind of civil demand letters on behalf of stores. They were quoted in a Wall Street Journal article as sending out over one and a half million letters a year, but they filed less than 10 lawsuits. Not ten percent. Not ten thousand. Ten. The odds are overwhelming that they won't do anything. If you choose to pay their demand, it just means they won't sue you, but it will have no impact on any criminal prosecution. Paying it won't stop criminal charges from being filed and not paying it won't make a criminal case worse or cause charges to be filed if they weren't going to be in the first place.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 1/31/2013
Universal Law Group, Inc. | Francis John Cowhig
I believe what you are asking about is what is known as a civil demand letter. I am sure that you received a letter from a law firm (probably out of state and most likely from Florida) telling you that you owe money for being caught shoplifting. As a rule, I advise clients to ignore these civil demand letters. Unless you signed some agreement to pay this store, you owe them nothing. In order for you to owe them something they would have to sue you and win. However, It would cost them much more to sue you than they can ever hope to recover so they usually don't pursue it. With that in mind, I would advise that they can still take legal action against you by filing suit in small claims court. If you ignore these actions, a default judgment will be entered against you. So, although you can ignore the civil demand letter, do not ignore anything that comes from a court.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 1/31/2013
Nelson & Lawless
Nelson & Lawless | Terry Nelson
There is no civil fine specified, because there is no such thing. The store is free to demand anything they like as a penalty from you. Keep in mind that even if you pay, they can still file criminal charges and have you arrested.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 1/31/2013
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr. | Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    This is not a civil fine. it is a civil demand permitted by the penal code. It is generally recommended that one ignore the demand.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/31/2013
    Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg
    Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg | Eric Sterkenburg
    In shoplifting cases, the victim (store) will add to the loss the cost of doing the paper work, investigation restocking, apprehending, and holding the shoplifter. On an item under $50.00, this is normally around $500.00.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/30/2013
Click to View More Answers: