What is the legitimate amount that can be charged for shoplifted items that were returned undamaged?

UPDATED: Nov 30, 2011

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What is the legitimate amount that can be charged for shoplifted items that were returned undamaged?

My 14 year old daughter and her 14 year old friend went to a store and tried to steal some clothes. They where caught before they left the store. They where not arrested. They where told that since the tags where taken off they would be responsible for 3 times the amount. Combined the clothes were $147. That’s over $800. Now a law firm has sent a letter for each girl to pay 3 times the amount. Is this disputable? The letter is addressed to her parents/guardian. What is her/my responsibility?

Asked on November 30, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, Maryland


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

What you have been sent is known as a "civil demand letter". These demands are routinely made in shoplifting cases. However, typically they are rarely acted upon. As a practical matter your chances of being sued are slim to none (but in theory you could be). So you can ignore this letter if you want.

Just be aware - if you don't pay this first demand, you will almost certainly receive a second for an even higher amount.  Again, you can ignore it if you chose. If however you decide that you want to make a payment, pay no more than a token $50 or $75 since the clothes were returned undamaged. Put this in a letter to them. Do not speak with them directly. These collectors are known for threatening and intimidating tactics. 

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 AttorneyPages.com 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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