A DEFENSE lawyer has urged Americans accused of stealing from Walmart not to pay the $200 fine the grocery giant may demand.
Bill Umansky, of Umansky Law Firm Criminal Defense & Injury Attorneys, warned suspected shoplifters that paying the store’s penalty won’t get rid of their legal problems.
The criminal defense lawyer, who practices in Orlando, Florida, explained that the consequences for light-fingered shoppers can be “extremely damaging.”
Renowned stores such as Walmart seem to be more prone to petty theft than smaller businesses – and they come down hard on looters.
Orlando chains will not detain or press charges on a person caught with goods less than the value of $25, but as the price climbs, so does the penalty.
Among the correspondence accused customers may receive in relation to the incident, the grocery store may also send a civil demand recovery.
They are typically in retail theft cases by the store in hopes of regaining monetary damages from the alleged crime.
But Bill explained that not all is as it seems – and the decision to pay it will likely come back to bite you.
He detailed why defendants should seek advice from a specialized criminal defense attorney immediately in a short YouTube clip.
The lawyer said: “If you get charged with shoplifting, often you’ll find two weeks later you will get a letter in the mail from the store that you allegedly stole from.
“You will read the letter, and it will say pay us $200 and if you don’t pay us, then we will sue you for triple the amount.
“What they don’t tell you – or hidden in the fine print – is just by paying that amount doesn’t get you out of criminal trouble.
“You still have the criminal charge. All the civil demand letter is, is civil, not criminal.”
If the recipient does not stump up the cash, Walmart have the power to file a lawsuit to collect the sum.
Some states also allow for the recovery of attorney fees if a lawsuit is filed.
Bill continued: “Failure to pay it means the store can sue you for three times the amount of what is stated in the letter, plus thousands of dollars of attorney fees.
“But more importantly, even if you get that letter and even if you pay the $200 fine they’re asking for, you can still be charged criminally and you still will be charged criminally.
“So make sure that you retain an attorney.”
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Penalties in Florida for shoplifting are particularly severe.
Those charged with a second-degree misdemeanor for stealing something under the value of $100 can be sentenced to up to 60 days in jail, spend six months on probation and a $500 fine.
For a first-degree misdemeanor for taking items valued up to $300, defendants can be locked up for one year, given one year’s probation and up to $1000 in fines.
The most severe punishment is saved for those who shoplift something valued over $300, which is considered a felony.
For committing grand theft, offenders can be slapped with a 5 year prison term, five years on probation and up to $5000 in fines.
Bill said Walmart have the power to ban shoplifters from all of their stores nationwide.
He explained it is in the “best interest” of defendants to seek legal advice and build a solid defense.
The lawyer claims that his firm has the ability to “help our clients obtain reduced penalties or have their charges dismissed entirely.”
We previously told how another attorney shared his golden tips that could help you dodge a hefty fine if you’re wrongly accused of shoplifting.
And this lawyer offered up their three go-to defenses to use if you are accused of stealing and why you should know your Miranda Rights.