Thank you for using Just Answer. It will be my pleasure to assist you today. If after reading my answer, you require clarification or additional information, please use the REPLY feature, it will be my pleasure to assist you. First of all, I'm sorry you had to go through this. The way the employees handled the matter was VERY unprofessional, and you might consider contacting their corporate offices and filing a complaint
.Can they file criminal charges after the fact?: Only the state, through the prosecutors office can file charges. No one else. Could Walmart contact the police though and file a report still? Yes, they could, because the statute of limitations, or time which the state has to file charges hasn't run, so a police report
could be filed and an investigation
done. Given that they didn't have you arrested or contact the police though when you were there, I would say it's highly unlikely that the police would be called now. That's not typical, in my experience. Theft
also requires proving intent - if an item was accidentally taken because your child grabbed it off the shelf and you didn't see it until you left the store, there was no intent to steal. And as you mentioned, why would you spend almost $200 in the store if you were there to shoplift?Can you be held civilly liable?: Under Illinois law, a person who commits retail theft is civilly liable for actual damages equal to the full retail value of the merchandise, plus an amount not less than $100 and not more than $1,000, as well as attorney's fees and court
costs. (720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/16A-27.) So, it would appear on the face that yes, they could.The issue I have with this is how "commits retail theft" is defined under section 16-25, which you can read here:http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/fulltext.asp?DocName=072000050K16-25That's a lot of legal terminology, I know, but the word that is repeated over and over is "intent" --a person who "intended", "with the intention of" --there was no intent here, and therefore I would argue, you didn't commit retail theft.The other thing is that this is a numbers came. Walmart hires a law firm who sends out likely hundreds, maybe thousands of such letters a week, and sees how many get paid. I worked for a law firm who had an attorney who used to do this type of work - he'd mail out nothing but collection letters all week long and try to get people to pay, basically by intimidating them -and it worked. I can't tell you what to do or not do, as I'm not your lawyer. But I can tell you that if you don't pay it, while the law firm could come after you for the debt, it's not likely to do so. They're far too busy, for one thing, and typically these cases would need to be filed in small claims court. It's not worth their time and filing fees to try and get a small judgment against you which they'd then have to spend even more money trying to collect. I can't promise they won't sue you if you don't pay, just that my experience is it doesn't happen, and you can probably ignore the letter without consequence. Nothing is going to happen to you or your children by not paying.