Do I have to pay a shoplifting fineto the store?

UPDATED: Feb 17, 2012

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Do I have to pay a shoplifting fineto the store?

I got caught shoplifting from home depot, got arrested and went to jail for 24 hours but I wasn’t charged. I got a letter from the store’s lawyers telling me to pay a $350 fine and if I don’t the may sue. I really don’t have the money for this and wanted to know if they will acually do anything if I don’t pay.

Asked on February 17, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, Ohio


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

It's not that you "have" to pay--it's that if you don't pay the amount they requrest, they may choose to sue. If you shoplifted from them, they can sue for the value of anything you stole or broke; they may also be able to get court fees and--if it was a valid lawsuit--possible legal fees, too; but it is difficult to see what else they would be entitled to recover from you. So if they received back the items you stole, they may not have anything they could effectively sue for. If they received the item(s) back and they try to sue, you could, as a defense, note that they did not actually suffer a loss (people may only sue for actual losses they suffer).

On the other hand, if they did lose several hudred dollars, there's a good chance they could sue and win--and since, if they have a valid case and must sue to recover money, they may be able to recover legal fees as well, you may find yourself paying more than $350.

A key issue, then, is the value of what you stole, and whether they received it back (in more or less good condition)--that is the main determinant of whether they have a valid case.

All the above said, bear in mind that some people and business will sue, as a matter of principal, even when it does not make economic sense. There is therefore no guarantee that that they will not take action, even if it would seem to be a bad decision to do so.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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