State laws that give retailers and others the right to recover damages and/or
civil penalties from shoplifters and dishonest employees.
When a shoplifting incident occurs there are two laws that have potentially been
violated; a civil law and a criminal law. The local authorities handle the
criminal law. The civil law was put into effect by state legislatures for all
retail establishments. They use this law to compensate for the losses that are
generated by shoplifters who get away with theft, to compensate for the
expenses associated with combating theft and to penalize theft offenders for
their improper acts and deter them from repeating the offense in the future.
The stores did not create these laws; they simply make use of the state
In most shoplifting cases the merchandise is recovered. The purposes of the
damage requests are to compensate the retailer for expenses associated with
shoplifting, to punish for the act and act as a deterrent to further
shoplifting and often to help recoup losses stemming from those shoplifting and
theft acts where the perpetrators are not caught. Even when the merchandise is
recovered and the shoplifter is apprehended, there are still significant
expenses to the retailer. The retailer has sustained a property right injury in
the form of a trespass to the property and also suffered a loss because of the
time and expense involved during the course of the investigation, apprehension,
detention and subsequent documentation of the incident.
The demand amount is a settlement proposal most often based on a civil penalty
that is allowed by the state statute.
Criminal laws and civil laws are two separate laws that are in most states
independent of each other. The local authorities and the local prosecutor or
state attorney would handle the prosecution of any criminal offenses. The
letters sent by our office are notices that the store is considering pursuit of
rights and/or remedies available to them by civil law in the state where the
offense occurred. The retailer has retained this Law Firm to make this request
for a civil penalty and/or other damages.
Many state laws clearly state that parents have either a joint or sole
responsibility to pay for their child’s act of theft. In other states, parents
may be liable for a portion of the demand including for instance actual damages
and/or attorney’s fees and the minor could be held liable for another portion
such as the penalty amount.
The store has no legal responsibility if they are simply stopping him or her and
recovering the property. Generally, they have no legal duty to inform parents
of the incident but many choose to do so or notify an adult who will take the
Other than in Washington D.C., where we provide a receipt of payment after each
partial payment, our firm will provide you a written receipt of payment or
civil penalty release approximately seven weeks after receipt of full payment.
We ask that you keep track of your payments and your file number(s) and remind
you that you may call our offices to check on your balance during our extended
The statutory penalty is often not based on the amount of the merchandise, but
instead based on the wrongful act itself and the amount of the initial demand
is based on the state statute along with consultation with our client. Some
statutes allow for a calculation to be performed that takes into consideration
the retail value of merchandise attempted to be taken. Part of the purpose of a
penalty request is to deter the wrongful act. Otherwise, without an allowance
for a penalty, someone who did not wish to pay for an item might try to
shoplift, because if they got caught, they would often just have to give the
item back and it would always be worth the risk. Because in almost all states,
these penalties can be requested in addition to any criminal liability the
individual may face showing the intent of the legislatures to really “crack
down” on retail theft.
If we sent a letter to you, our records did not show that we or our client had
received full payment as of that date. Do you have any canceled checks, money
order receipts, or credit card statements that can verify your payments? If so,
we will need you to send us legible copies of all payments (front and back)
that you are stating were made, so we can review to determine if it is
appropriate to make any adjustments to your file.
Yes. Payment of the civil demand takes care of the civil matter referenced in
the letter only. If there is a criminal court action (you would most likely
have either been arrested or given a Notice to Appear by a police officer for
this to apply), then you need to comply with the rules of the criminal court
that has jurisdiction for the criminal matter. Payment of a civil demand does
not relieve you of possible criminal liability but would ensure that you would
not have any further civil liability for that particular claim. Restitution
claims to cover losses sustained for items that were not recovered may be
addressed in a separate civil claim or may also be addressed during criminal
Approximately seven weeks after the demand is paid in full, you will receive a
release or payment receipt letter. A release or receipt of full payment letter
is proof of payment and clears you of any civil liability related to the
If your card is declined then you must mail in your payment. We accept checks
and money orders. Please place your file number on the method of payment. Make
your payment payable to Palmer, Reifler and Associates and mail to:
P.O. Box 607774
Orlando, FL 32860
Our firm utilizes the services of VeriSign to ensure the highest level of
confidentiality and protection.
For the convenience of setting up a payment plan instead of paying the demand in a single lump sum, you will incur in a non-refundable installment plan fee per payment. This fee covers the additional cost of posting payments to your file and the additional follow-up necessary to administratively track the payments until the balance is paid in full.
Please note that should a partial payment be received, the non-refundable installment plan fee will automatically be assessed.
For the convenience of making a payment online, you will incur a non-refundable fee up to $14.50 for each online payment made. This fee covers the additional cost incurred in using this online feature. In the alternative, you may make a payment via MoneyGram or you may send a check, money order or other certified funds with your file number clearly displayed on the payment to:
Palmer, Reifler & Associates, P.A.
Post Office Box 607774
Orlando, FL 32860-7774