Q. Do I need to pay a “Civil Demand” from Wal-Mart’s lawyer?Last year, on approximately May 28th, 2012, I made the big mistake of stealing from Wal-Mart. It was a 422.00 bathing suit, and looking back now I realize it was a stupid idea. This was my first ever offense. They took me into the front of the store and called the police. I had to pay a fine from the court for $300, which I completely paid off back in November (payment plan). Today I received a letter from some law offices stating that I needed to pay $150 in civil restitution. Do I have to pay this civil demand? Why would they send it almost 9 months after the incident? Like I said, I paid my fine with the court and the law has not bothered me about it. I was always on time with my payments. And now suddenly I have a $150 demand for “damages”. Help please?

A: You were charged with a misdemeanor which obviously they lowered to a summary offense which is punishable up to a $300.00 fine or 90 days in jail and you received the fine. If this was your first offense, this is unfortunate as an attorney may have been able to get the charges reduced by getting the DA to agree to a diversionary program. If it was not your first offense or the DA would not offer a program, then the deal you received was fair. As far as the civil judgment, do not pay it, especially if the criminal case was resolved. It is most likely from some out of state law office who is not going to hire an Allegheny County attorney to sue you for a couple hundred dollars. These companies or law firms that provide this service for the department store send these letters to everyone who is arrested by the store they have contracted. Most people that are charged feel it will somehow benefit their case and pay without first consulting with a lawyer.

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