My name is ***** ***** I will be assisting you with your question.
When you are caught shoplifting and a store wants to proceed against you, they can do so civilly and/or criminally.
In this instance, if the police were never involved and you dealt only with store security, they are not looking to arrest you. That’s good because it means that this incident will never appear on your criminal record. Instead of involving the police, the store likely had you sign a form which will bar you from that store. You’ll be expected to abide by the stay-away agreement or you can be arrested for trespass if they find you in there ever again.
The civil fine you have been asked to pay will be for more than the $20 value you took, because the law allows stores to charge in excess of what you took to help defray the cost of their sre security system, their theft insurance
, their security personnel and their loss prevention department. If you pay the fine that should be the last of it and nobody need know anything about this incident because it will not be on your record.
If you don't pay that fine, the store is unlikely to sue you. But they can decide at that point to turn your file over to the police and have you prosecuted. You can call the law firm and see if they will allow you to negotiate a lower fine or, if they won't, whether they will allow you to give them $300 now and then pay the rest off over time. In my experience, the law firm is going to want all of the money they ask for up front, in which case you may want to consider telling your family about this and getting some help with the fine to ensure that you don't end up in criminal court. Although telling your folks will no doubt be unpleasant, it will be a lot less unpleasant than having to confess to the down the road that you have a criminal record.