Private Investigations and Personal Security/Shoplifting under 18

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QUESTION: Dear Andrew I got caught shoplifting in the state of Va and am only 15. The value of the items was slightly under 40 dollars. They did not call the police but said Walmart could sue me. Are they likely to sue me and how much will I have to pay?

ANSWER: Dear Bob,

I am not one to lambast people, but hopefully at 15 you've learned that this is an experience you don't want to repeat.

Without having full details of the incident, I'm sure Wal Mart stopped you, recovered their stolen merchandise, and notified your parents (I've worked with Wal Mart Loss Prevention before. They're pretty consistent).  In their presence they more than likely had you sign a tresspass agreement (or at the very least, verbally acknowledge your tresspass from that store) and agree to a civil demand notice. Civil demand is essentially a remedy for retailers to cover costs associated with detaining shoplifters and recovering merchandise. It penalizes the shoplifter with paying for the merchandise plus a general fine.  Usually the fine is between $150-$600 plus the value of the stolen items.

Could Wal Mart sue you? Yes, they could.  The civil demand is a legal contract. You agree to pay Wal Mart back for the manpower and time they had to spend apprehending you and recovering their merchandise.  Essentially depriving them of their time and merchandise.  Wal Mart, like all major retailers, have legal counsel who pursue civil demand notices given to shoplifters.  They will make multiple attempts to collect.  If you don't reply to their collection demands, they could serve you with a civil notice and sue you for the money.  Plus, if they wanted you, they could still prosecute you.

I would pay the civil demand and hopefully never shoplift again.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Dear Andrew thanks for answering my question. And yes I will definately never shoplift again. But when I was caught I never had to sign any form that said I would never go there again and I dont remember them even mentioning a civil demand notice. Could they still get me in trouble if I go back there and will I still have to pay them?

Answer
Dear Bob,

Whether or not you signed a tresspass notice, it goes without saying that if you were caught committing a crime in their store, they would prefer if you never went back there.  As I stated, a tresspass can be a verbal or written acknowledgement, and is enforced whether or not you agree to it.  I would stay out of Walmart.

In regards to the civil demand, I would attempt to follow up with Walmart.  Call the store and ask for a number to their corporate office. Call their corporate office, explain your situation and concerns and ask to speak to the correct department.  They'll be able to clarify your civil demand question and inform you of any pending collection they may have against you.


Hope this helps,

Andrew

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