temecula felony attorney

Arrested for Shoplifting? How to Handle a Civil Demand/Fine - Penal Code § 490.5

If you were arrested for shoplifting from a large department store (Kohl's, Macy's, Target, Walmart) chances are you will receive a letter DEMANDING that you pay some exorbitant fee OR ELSE. This article explains what to do in that situation.  

ignore the letter!

You do not owe the money that the letter demands.  The only time you would ever owe the money demanded is if you were taken to court and a judgment was rendered ordering you to pay the amount demanded.  Without a judgment, you don't owe any money.  Further, it is astronomically unlikely that you'll ever be taken to court for that money.  Take the letter and build a paper airplane, build a fire, or put it in the bottom of your cat's litter box.  Don't respond to it.  

Failing to respond to the letter will not have an impact on any criminal proceedings.  

don't call them, talk to them, or make any "deals"!

In this circumstance, you're essentially dealing with a debt collection agency that is trying to collect a debt that you have no legal obligation to pay.  Their letters will get more stern - they'll threaten to hurt your credit, to take legal action, and to press criminal charges.  None of that will happen.  Pick up their calls, tell them you'll only communicate with them in writing, and hang up.  They're really just hoping to scare you into paying them.  That's how they make money.  DO NOT agree to pay them anything over the phone, as that can result in a legally binding contract.  

I used to recommend offering to pay $50 to just make these bottom feeders go away. However, it has come to my attention that some people have sent in "settlement" checks, only to have them returned along with a demand for more money.  As such, I don't recommend negotiating a settlement.  

but they're threatening to press criminal charges!

Your decision to pay the fine or not will not have any impact on any criminal proceedings.  The decision to file criminal charges rests with the district attorney in the county in which the shoplifting occurred.  Your failure to pay the fine will not have any impact on whether charges are filed or not, and your failure to pay won't result in a harsher criminal sentence.  

Further, if one of these collection firms threatens you with criminal prosecution should you fail to pay, that's criminal extortion under California law.  If that happens to you, I urge you to report the firm to the Federal Trade Commission and the California Attorney General, here:

Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Response Center, Washington, DC 20580-0001
Attorney General's Office, California Department of Justice, Attn: Public Inquiry Unit, P.O. Box 944255 Sacramento, CA, 94244-2550.


. . . and they want legal fees!

Penal Code § 490.5 governs the recovery of damages after a shoplifting incident. Penal Code § 490.5 does not allow for recovery of legal fees.  They're trying to scare you into paying.  

will they actually take me to court?

Again, the odds of being taken to court are astronomically low.  According to one figure, the odds are 10:1,200,000.  Further, the claim would be in small claims court.  Attorneys aren't allowed in small claims court.  Therefore, Target, Kohl's, Macy's, etc. would have to send one of its corporate directors out to small claims court to prove its claim.  This isn't going to happen.  

final thoughts

This post only applies to California Law, and demands/claims made under Penal Code § 490.5 I am not licensed to practice in any state other than California, and your state may have different laws regarding civil recovery.  Your circumstances may be very different than what is described herein.  For instance, if the store incurred other losses as a result of your actions in excess of the limits set forth in Penal Code § 490.5 or a store employee was injured, please contact a lawyer immediately.  This article should not be taken as specified legal advice but merely as a guide, and does not create an attorney-client relationship.  

If you are facing a shoplifting charge in Temecula, Murrieta, Wildomar, Menifee, Perris, San Jacinto, Moreno Valley, Riverside, Corona, Norco, Indio, or any other city in Riverside County, feel free to give me a call or to fill out the case evaluation form below to discuss your legal options.  If you have received a civil demand/fine and have questions, feel free to contact me as well.  Good luck!

Posted by Mike Donaldson.

Cleaning Up Your Criminal Record: Expungements, Terminating Probation, Felony Reductions, Certificates of Rehabilitation and More . . .


If you have been convicted of a crime in the past, you understand that the punishment for the crime doesn't end upon release from prison, jail, or the end of your probation.  Prospective employers, landlords, and licensing agencies can use that prior conviction to legally discriminate against you.  As such, you may feel as though you're being perpetually punished for your conviction by way of being denied employment, housing, or licensure.  

Don't give up hope.  Stand up to the man.  You have options.


"Expungement” is a term used to refer to the process of clearing your criminal record. In this process, you request that the court re-open your criminal case, withdraw the plea or guilty verdict, dismiss the charges, and re-close the case without a conviction.  In effect, you are no longer a convicted person.  

Expungements are available to individuals convicted of:  (1) infractions or misdemeanors and not put on probation; (2) misdemeanors with probation; (3) felonies with probation; (4) felonies with a county jail sentence.  If you were convicted of a felony and sent to state prison, you are ineligible for an expungement, but may apply for a Certificate of Rehabilitation (discussed below).  

The benefits of an expungement are staggering.  Especially for individuals seeking employment.  Please feel free to contact me now to begin the expungement process.  

Early Termination of Probation

If you were granted probation after your conviction, you must be off of probation in order to be eligible for an expungement.  However, you can petition a court to terminate your probation early, and grant an expungement at the same time.  

If you would like to terminate your probation early and file for an expungement, please feel free to contact me now.  

Reducing Felonies to Misdemeanors

Some felonies, called "wobblers," can be reduced to a misdemeanor pursuant to Penal Code section 17, subdivision (b).  The best course of action in a felony expungement case is to:  (1) reduce the felony to a misdemeanor; and (2) expunge the misdemeanor if the court reduces the felony.  That way, you will only have an expunged misdemeanor on your record, and not an expunged felony, which is much better.  

Prop 47 also offers an avenue for persons convicted of a felony to reduce it to a misdemeanor. Under Prop 47, individuals with specified felonies (list of eligible offenses listed here) can petition the court for reduction to a misdemeanor.  

If you are interested in determining if you are eligible to have your felony reduced, or would like to begin the Prop 47 process, please feel free to contact me now.  

Certificates of Rehabilitation

If a person is sentenced to state prison for a felony conviction, they are ineligible for an expungement.  However, they can seek relief through a Certificate of Rehabilitation.  

Certificates of Rehabilitation relieve some sex offenders of their duty to register. They can enhance a felon’s potential for licensing consideration by a State board, serve as an official document to demonstrate a felon’s rehabilitation, which could enhance employment possibilities, and serve as an automatic application for a gubernatorial pardon.  

In the event that the gubernatorial pardon is granted, then persons convicted of a felony may serve on a jury trial, may have their firearms rights restored, unless the underlying conviction was for a felony involving the use of a dangerous weapon. Further, a pardon will allow a felon to be considered for appointment as a county probation officer or a state parole agent, but not to any other peace officer positions. 

If you are interested in applying for a Certificate of Rehabilitation, or would like more information, please feel free to contact me now.  

If you live in Temecula, Murrieta, Wildomar, Perris, San Jacinto, Banning, Hemet, Menifee, or another city in southwest Riverside County and are in need of an expungement, early termination of probation, felony reduction, or a certificate of rehabilitation, please reach out.  I'm happy to discuss all of your options in order to get your record as clean as possible.  


Posted by Mike Donaldson.