Is there a way to fight a large shoplifting fee, or get it reduced?

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Is there a way to fight a large shoplifting fee, or get it reduced?

I was caught shoplifting; merchandise worth $9.47. I received a letter saying I have to pay $405. I do not have a court date, they just say in the letter to pay or criminal action will be taken against me. This is my first offense. I have never done anything like this. I can’t afford to pay and I can’t afford a lawyer. Why is the amount so much for under $10 of merchandise? What happens if i do not pay it?

Asked on September 27, 2011 under Criminal Law, California

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

What you got is known as a civil demand letter from the store in which you shop lifted the merchandise, correct?  DO NOT PAY IT.  It is the store's way of harassing you back; really.  If you are convicted of the crime of petty theft (which is what shoplifting is) then the state or county will impose a fine or some other penalty and the most that the store would get is called restitution, which would be the $9.47.  Please get legal help before you go to court or ask for a attorney to be appointed when you go to Court if you can not afford one.  It is important.  It is a crime and it could go on your record if convicted. 


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