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HelloThis is Samuel and I will discuss this and provide you information in this regard.Unfortunately, it is legit. The laws today allow the merchant to forego criminal charges and instead present a civil demand. If it is not paid, the merchant may then file the criminal charges in addition to the civil demand.
Keep in mind, that no one can force the payment without first going to court and obtaining a judgement. Of course, if that happens, your family member would then also be liable for any legal fees associated with the merchant bringing the matter to court for the judgement.So if at this time you opt not to pay the fine of the civil demand, I suggest you will want to consider consulting with a local criminal defense attorney because you should have legal representation.
Your family member can also be charged criminally. Of course the District Attorney needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they did commit the crime of attempting to deprive the merchant of their property.