Consequences of a civil demand letter

Updated March 21, 2017

A Civil Demand Letter is typically sent to those who have been caught shoplifting and is a way for companies to recuperate their losses from stolen goods. A Civil Demand Letter may be sent to a minor or an adult and may demand money for the goods stolen or the security that had to be hired for your case.

Paying the Money Owed

When receiving a Civil Demand Letter from a company, it will typically ask that you send in a check for the amount of goods you have stolen or damaged. Although these letters are typically signed by a lawyer, they are not necessarily bound by law. If you choose to pay the amount you owe, the store or company must stop contacting you about the incident. Whether or not it ends up on your police record is up to those present at the time of your arrest or seizure of goods. It is advisable, however, to wait until the matter is settled via the law before paying for any stolen goods directly to the company.

Getting Sued

If you refuse to pay the money owed by the company, you may be subject to a lawsuit. Depending on the value of the items you either stole or damaged, you may be taken to regular court or small claims court to defend yourself. Depending on the outcome, you may have to pay the company the value of the goods you stole or destroyed plus legal and court fees. Typically, this will happen for higher priced goods.


If the amount of property stolen or destroyed is not extremely high, there may be no consequences to a Civil Demand Letter. Although it is not advisable to completely ignore a Civil Demand Letter, the company may decide to do nothing if the money owed is not enough to justify time and cost spent in court. If you're unsure whether or not to ignore a Civil Demand Letter, seek legal counsel with someone in your area, as they will be able to give you the best advice pertaining to your particular situation.

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About the Author

Writing since 2008, Fiona Miller has taught English in Eastern Europe and also teaches kids in New York schools about the Holocaust. Her work can be found on, ConnectED and various other Web sites. Miller holds a B.A. in French from Chapman University and an M.A. in educational theater from New York University.