I received a civil claim letter demanding 180 dollars. Do I have to pay it?

Q:I am 16 years old. I was caught shoplifting 30 dollars worth of merchandise. I was detained until someone came to pick me up, though no one came so they released me. No police were involved. I had to sign 2 or 3 papers, I was so nervous I didn’t read what I signed. They took down my info including my social security number. Yesterday, I received a civil claim letter demanding 180 dollars. Do I have to pay it? What happens if I don’t? I don’t have the money too.

A: These civil demands are generally from some out of town law firm who will not sue you in your local court over a $150 or $200 demand. Most attorneys advise to ignore them. However, there have been instances in which I had to be creative in persuading the store employee and DA into dropping the charges. In those situations, I used payment of the civil demand along with other things I had my client do before the hearing, as a justification for a dismissal. Payment of the civil demand, although not necessary, was one more positive factor weighing in favor of my client when I was able to convince the judge to dismiss the charges. I would say, do not rush to pay it and seek the advice of an attorney before doing so. The attorney can also advise you as to whether your case should be in juvenile court or not.