PC 490.5

Civil Demand Letters

What is Civil Demand Letter ?

If you’ve recently been arrested for shoplifting then you will likely receive a Civil Demand Letter from an attorney demanding that you repay the retail store from where you stole. Sections (b) and (c) of CA Penal Code 490.5[1] state that it is your responsibility to pay the store for damages and loss property valued from $50 to $500. You will also be responsible to pay for any out-of-pocket expenses that the retail store acquired because of your action, namely their attorney costs. If you are a minor then that responsibility falls onto your parents.

The letter will also claim that if you do not reimburse the retail store then further legal action will take place, namely a civil law suit, where you will be required to pay for this as well (a filing fee for small claims court, $30).

These letters will be intimidating and appear to be time sensitive. But how concerned should you be if you receive one of these letters and how much legal power do they carry?

Well the answer varies from case to case, for some cases little legal action can take place, while others require legal action and consultation with a criminal defense attorney. With that being said, if you receive one of these letters I would advice you to contact a skilled criminal defense attorney before casually discarding it.

 

References

[1] (b) When an unemancipated minor’s willful conduct would constitute petty theft involving merchandise taken from a merchant’s premises or a book or other library materials taken from a library facility, any merchant or library facility who has been injured by that conduct may bring a civil action against the parent or legal guardian having control and custody of the minor. For the purposes of those actions the misconduct of the unemancipated minor shall be imputed to the parent or legal guardian having control and custody of the minor. The parent or legal guardian having control or custody of an unemancipated minor whose conduct violates this subdivision shall be jointly and severally liable with the minor to a merchant or to a library facility for damages of not less than fifty dollars ($50) nor more than five hundred dollars ($500), plus costs. In addition to the foregoing damages, the parent or legal guardian shall be jointly and severally liable with the minor to the merchant for the retail value of the merchandise if it is not recovered in a merchantable condition, or to a library facility for the fair market value of its book or other library materials. Recovery of these damages may be had in addition to, and is not limited by, any other provision of law which limits the liability of a parent or legal guardian for the tortious conduct of a minor. An action for recovery of damages, pursuant to this subdivision, may be brought in small claims court if the total damages do not exceed the jurisdictional limit of that

court, or in any other appropriate court; however, total damages, including the value of the merchandise or book or other library materials, shall not exceed five hundred dollars ($500) for each action brought under this section. The provisions of this subdivision are in addition to other civil remedies and do not limit merchants or other persons to elect to pursue other civil remedies, except that the provisions of Section 1714.1 of the Civil Code shall not apply herein.

(c) When an adult or emancipated minor has unlawfully taken merchandise from a merchant’s premises, or a book or other library materials from a library facility, the adult or emancipated minor shall be liable to the merchant or library facility for damages of not less than fifty dollars ($50) nor more than five hundred dollars ($500), plus costs. In addition to the foregoing damages, the adult or emancipated minor shall be liable to the merchant for the retail value of the merchandise if it is not recovered in merchantable condition, or to a library facility for the fair market value of its book or other library materials. An action for recovery of damages, pursuant to this subdivision, may be brought in small claims court if the total damages do not exceed the jurisdictional limit of such court, or in any other appropriate court. The provisions of this subdivision are in addition to other civil remedies and do not limit merchants or other persons to elect to pursue other civil remedies.

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