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MyraB, Lawyer
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 371
Experience:  I have over 20 years experience in criminal law and civil litigation from pre-trial practice to appeal.
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My daughter was in the store and left with someone who shoplifted.

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My daughter was in the store and left with someone who shoplifted. She didn't shoplift but was stopped along with her friend. She was asked for her I.D., which she gave to them. They searched her purse and found nothing. She was then asked to leave. Her friend was arrested for shoplifting. My daughter went to the police station to pick her up.

She has now received a letter from the store asking for $300. She didn't steal anything. She was not arrested. Why would she have to pay the store $300?

Elmhurst, IL
Hello. I'm sorry to hear that this happened.

Under Illinois law merchants who have been victimized by retail theft are entitled to sue the perpetrator in civil court. If the offender is a minor, the parents are civilly liable.

Under the retail theft statute, Article 16-A, merchants are allowed to detain someone they suspect of shoplifting and request identification. They are also allowed to recover civil damages under 16-A7 from anyone who commits the offense of retail theft as defined under the statute. They may recover the following: (i) Actual damages equal to the full retail value of the merchandise; (ii) An amount not less than $100 nor more than $1,000; plus (iii) Attorney’s fees and court costs.

Merchants, most often retail chains, contract with an attorney or a law firm to send out form demand letters to everyone the store catches shoplifting. It doesn't matter if the alleged shoplifter was never arrested or charged, or even found not guilty after trial. Even if the store gets the merchandise back and there was no damage to it, the store may still try to collect something. They play the odds, sending these letters by the thousands, hoping somebody pays it.

At this point, you can ignore the letter as your daughter did not shoplift and she did not commit any offense. If you ignore it, it is likely that they will not pursue recovery as it is more expensive for them to try to collect, and attorney's fees are not guaranteed. However, If you are concerned about ignoring the letter, you may want to respond by simply stating that there is no basis for their claim and that you will not pay.

Please feel free to ask any follow-up questions.
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