Do I have to pay for damage fees?

DETAILS

I was caught stealing twice. The first place at H&M and the second at Sears. A week after getting caught at Sears I got a letter saying I had to pay a $50 fee for the damages. After I paid the fee I heard that you didn’t need to pay for it. Now, a month or so later, I receive a letter from H&M saying I have to pay $82.95. I want to know if I have to pay for it? PLEASE HELP ASAP!!!

ANSWER

First, you are most likely being charged or will be charged in criminal court with two separate misdemeanor theft charges. A misdemeanor is a criminal offense punishable by up to 90 days jail and a $1000 fine. However, truly the worst part of being charged with a theft misdemeanor is the fact that it is a criminal conviction for theft may go on your record. This can permanently destroy your ability to get a job and will negatively affect many other aspects of your life.

The civil demand letters ($50 from Sears and 82.95 from HM) are a different issue. Typically you should not pay those. However, you must consult a lawyer for advice on your particular situation.

Also, if you can afford to retain a lawyer to fight your criminal charges, that would be very wise. Having a lawyer represent you can greatly affect your outcome because an attorney can advise you about your particular situation and help you avoid a criminal conviction. Priceless.

If you can not afford a lawyer, apply for a public defender on your first appearance date.

If you have not been charged yet (meaning you have not received a court date or a citation), then keep checking your mail or call the court in the jurisdiction in which you were shoplifting to check and see the status of the charges.

Always best to get an attorney on board as soon as possible. I hope this helps. Please call me if I can be of further assistance to you. I’ve successfully prevented convictions for many many clients.