Is retail fraud a civil or criminal matter?

UPDATED: Oct 24, 2011

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Is retail fraud a civil or criminal matter?

My daughter was arrested for retail fraud. She recently recieved a letter from a lawyer requesting a payment for civil proceedings. However, the letter states that this will not prevent any criminal prosecution. Is this a scam? If not, what are the advantages or disadvantages of paying this fee?

Asked on October 24, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, Michigan


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Defrauding a person or entity out of money or goods is *both* a crime and a civil tort. That is, you can prosecuted for it; you can also be sued for the value or worth of whatever you took (and possibly for additional costs or amounts, like court fees).

The two systems, criminal and civil, are separate, and whether or not an action is taken in one does not affect whether or not an action can be taken in the other. So, for example, you can be prosecuted criminally even if you have voluntarily repaid what you took.

The advantage of repaying is threefold:

1) If they get their money, they are less likely to bring it to the attention of the authorities or press charges.

2) Repayment shows contrition; even if charged, it will likely help getting a lesser punishment or sentence.

3) If you don't repay, you can be sued, and theoretically (if its a good case against you) end up repaying all the money later anyway, after you lose--and after having wasted money on defending yourself as well.

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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