24/7 call for a free consultation 212-300-5196




When you’re facing a federal issue, you need an attorney whose going to be available 24/7 to help you get the results and outcome you need. The value of working with the Spodek Law Group is that we treat each and every client like a member of our family.

California’s Civil Demand Letter for Shoplifting: Penal Code 490.5 PC

California’s Civil Demand Letter for Shoplifting: Penal Code 490.5 PC

California’s statute that authorizes a law firm or company to send a civil demand letter to a person accused of shoplifting is enshrined in Penal Code 490.5 PC. Such a letter demands payment for any losses the targeted retailer incurred as a result of the crime.

A demand letter may order payment of up to $500 to cover such costs as the item stolen, any damaged merchandise, and any employee or loss prevention officer that had to tend to the shoplifting matter. The recipient of a demand letter is strongly advised to contact a criminal defense lawyer for advice before responding. It’s not advisable for a person to make any payments in response to a civil demand letter. No matter how well meaning, that payment could equate to an admission of guilt. Furthermore, a payment does not prevent the store from filing criminal charges or a civil lawsuit.

The connected offense, shoplifting, is a crime in California per Penal Code 459.5 PC. An individual commits the offense when he or she enters an open business with the intent to steal merchandise worth $950 or less. This is a misdemeanor offense under California’s criminal legislation.

This offense is punishable by time in county jail for up to six months and/or a maximum fine of $1,000.

George FernandezGeorge Fernandez
14:16 30 Apr 24
Excellent 10 out of 10, Helped resolve my case. Jeremy explained everything and made everything easy to understand.
21:33 24 Apr 24
If you are looking for a lawyer that listens, is aggressive where needed, and holds his word above all else, Todd is the best pick. I had hired multiple attorneys prior to hiring the Spodek Group for a white collar case. The first thing that stood out to me was the cost, as anyone going through the process and dealing with the system, money was tight at that time - especially after hiring and firing multiple lawyers. The cost was not as high as others which was definitely a plus. Todd's intake process was also unlike other attorneys. He took the time to actually listen. He cared. He was trying to put himself in my shoes while I was explaining the situation to him and he really took the time to understand the whole situation. Other lawyers will give you 15 mins and send you a retainer agreement. Not Todd, I think he spent almost two hours with me as I was explaining everything.Not only was he great during the onboarding process, he was supportive and very informative through the entire plea process and eventually sentencing. After hiring him, I asked if I should hire a prison consultant, he told me to save my money as he would do everything they would. He was right and held up to his word. Later on I would hear from others that went with the prison consultants that they were a waste of money - I am glad I listened to Todd!When it came time for sentencing, two days prior to sentencing, the prosecutor tried increasing my proposed prison time by almost double - apparently a normal move. Todd and his team worked with me non-stop through the weekend prior to sentencing to ensure that I was not given additional prison time. Again, he took the time to listen and came up with a strategy to explain the case with great detail.Unfortunately, I did plead guilty as that was my best option. Todd and his whole team wrote up nearly 300 pages of a summary of what happened and why I should not be given prison time. If I breakdown the amount I spent with Todd versus the amount of work that I saw being done, I am shocked I was not charged four times as much. The other benefit was, a lot of criminal defense lawyers were just a single attorney with a paralegal or two. Todd had a team of people that I dealt with (5-7 people that I interacted with), but he was ALWAYS accessible. It would never take him more than an hour to reply unless he was in court.I was sentenced to prison and I was emotionally distraught. Todd and his team did whatever they could even after sentencing to make sure I was alright. He personally stayed in touch with my family to ensure I was doing alright and offered support to them. Most lawyers would consider the job complete at sentencing, not Todd.After prison, Todd still spent time with me to make sure I was on the right track and avoiding any potential risks in the future. He has also been giving advice on how to navigate probation etc and has not been looking at the clock for billing.Although I wish I had never been arrested in the first place, I am glad I had Todd and his team in my corner. Without them I likely would have had to spend a lot more time in prison than I did.Thank you, Todd, and the entire Spodek Law team, for helping turn what was a nightmare into a manageable situation!
Yelva Saint-PreuxYelva Saint-Preux
19:26 19 Apr 24
I am immensely grateful to the entire team at Spodek Law Group for their unwavering dedication and exceptional expertise throughout my case. From our initial consultation to the final resolution, their professionalism and tireless advocacy made all the difference. Their strategic approach and attention to detail instilled confidence in me every step of the way.Thanks to their hard work and commitment, we achieved a truly favorable outcome that exceeded my expectations. Not only did they navigate the complexities of my case with precision, but they also provided invaluable support and guidance during what was undoubtedly a challenging time. I cannot recommend Spodek Law Group highly enough, especially attorneys Todd Spodek and Claire Banks; they are beacons of excellence in the legal profession.YSP.
Katherine SunKatherine Sun
18:08 18 Apr 24
my lawyer is Alex Zhik. Efficient, patient and professional
Nun yaNun ya
17:48 18 Apr 24
Todd, Ralph and Alex are amazing. Helped my husband get from a double digit number with multiple charges to a single digit, by the time I blink he will be out. They very professional and help with all your needs. They dealt with my anxiety and worry very well and they understand that your family member needs to get home as soon as possible.
Keisha ParrisKeisha Parris
20:45 15 Mar 24
Believe every single review here about Alex Z!! From our initial consultation, it was evident that Alex possessed a profound understanding of criminal law and a fierce dedication to his clients rights. Throughout the entirety of my case, Alex exhibited unparalleled professionalism and unwavering commitment. What sets Alex apart is not only his legal expertise but also his genuine compassion for his clients. He took the time to thoroughly explain my case, alleviating any concerns I had along the way. His exact words were “I’m not worried about it”. His unwavering support and guidance were invaluable throughout the entire process. I am immensely grateful for Alex's exceptional legal representation and wholeheartedly recommend his services to anyone in need of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Alex Z is not just a lawyer; he is a beacon of hope for those navigating the complexities of the legal system. If you find yourself in need of a dedicated and competent legal advocate, look no further than Alex Z.
Taïko BeautyTaïko Beauty
16:26 15 Mar 24
I don’t know where to start, I can write a novel about this firm, but one thing I will say is that having my best interest was their main priority since the beginning of my case which was back in Winter 2019. Miss Claire Banks, one of the best Attorneys in the firm represented me very well and was very professional, respectful, and truthful. Not once did she leave me in the dark, in fact she presented all options and routes that could possibly be considered for my case and she reinsured me that no matter what I decided to do, her and the team will have my back and that’s exactly what happened. Not only will I be liberated from this case, also, I will enjoy my freedom and continue to be a mother to my first born son and will have no restrictions with accomplishing my goals in life. Now that’s what I call victory!! I thank the Lord, My mother, Claire, and the Spodek team for standing by me and fighting with me. Words can’t describe how grateful I am to have the opportunity to work with this team. I’m very satisfied, very pleased with their performance, their hard work, and their diligence.Thank you team!
K MarK Mar
01:37 25 Jan 24
I recently had Spodek Law Group represent me for a legal matter in NYC and I am thoroughly impressed with their services.Alex Zhik secured the best possible outcome for my case.It was a seamless journey from the initial consultation to the resolution of my legal matter. From the moment I spoke to Todd about my case, his enthusiasm to help was evident, setting a positive tone for the entire experience. The efficiency and professionalism displayed by the team is commendable.A particularly noteworthy aspect of their service is their user-friendly portal to upload your documents/evidence. This not only simplified the process, but showcases their commitment to streamline the client experience.Lastly, in an industry where legal fees can often be a concern, I found their pricing to be very reasonable, making needing legal assistance feel accessible and stress-free.I am grateful for their support and wouldn't hesitate to turn to them again in the future.

The California criminal defense attorneys at Spodek Law Group will spotlight the following in this article:

What exactly is a civil demand letter?

In the context of a shoplifting matter, a civil demand letter is when the store (or the lawyer representing the store) sends the individual accused of stealing and demands payment for any losses that the store incurred due to the shoplifting charge. This is often the course of action a store owner will take even if the merchandise was recovered and not damaged.

As it’s name implies, a civil demand letter involves a civil action (as opposed to a criminal one). Therefore, any payment given to the store is a form of civil recovery.

According to Penal Code 490.5 PC, a store can ask for these things in a civil demand letter:

– the cost of the item or items that the shoplifter took, or attempted to take (if the store was unable to recover that item),
– the cost of merchandise that was damaged, and
– the expense connected to a store employee or a loss prevention officer that handled the shoplifting case.

California law permits retailers to ask for up to $500 in losses from a person accused of shoplifting. This is regardless of how much the item that the shoplifter took or tried to take actually cost. In cases where the shoplifter was a minor, the defendant’s parent or legal guardian shall be jointly and severally liable to the retailer along with their child.

Although you are advised to refrain from responding without legal counsel, you should not totally ignore a civil demand letter. If a shoplifter does this, PC 490.5 authorizes the targeted retailer to file a case in small claims court against the offender.

What should an individual do upon receiving a letter?

The first thing a recipient of a demand letter should do is contact a criminal defense attorney for legal advice. Counsel will likely advise his or her client not to act rashly in response to a letter and make a payment. The reason for this is that a quick payment may act as an admission that a person is guilty of a crime.

Furthermore, note that even if a person remits a sum of money in response to a demand letter, that does not preclude a store from filing criminal charges or a civil lawsuit against them.

In practice, a lawyer may be able to work with a store to negotiate a lower payment and also remove the risk that it will initiate a criminal case or a civil claim.

What is shoplifting pursuant to Penal Code Section 459.5?

The California law that makes shoplifting a crime is Penal Code 495.5 PC. According to this statute, a person is guilty of an offense when he or she enters an open business with the intent to steal merchandise worth $950 or less.

In other words, shoplifting is going into an open business intending to commit the crime of petty theft, sometimes referred to as retail theft.

The criminal offense of shoplifting was enshrined by the voter initiative Proposition 47 in 2014. Before the passage of Prop 47, the act that is now defined as shoplifting could have been charged instead as Penal Code 459 PC burglary. Shoplifting is usually charged as a misdemeanor. This offense is punishable by confinement in county jail (as opposed to state prison) for up to six months and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

What does the term “shopkeeper’s privilege” mean?

Pursuant to California law, the “shopkeeper’s privilege law” says that shopkeepers, or store owners, may detain a shopper if they have probable cause or reasonable grounds to believe that this shopper is guilty of shoplifting.

The criteria for this detention must be for a reasonable amount of time and used strictly for the purpose of investigating the possible shoplifting offense. Whether or not a detainment is “reasonable,” or for a reasonable period of time is a determination the court makes on the basis of all of the facts of a specific case.

According to PC 490.5, a “shop owner or merchant” is an owner or operator of any store space that is purposed for the purchase or sale of any personal property capable of manual delivery.

Are retailers allowed to use force in detaining a shoplifter?

Yes, a retail store owner does have the legal right to use force in detaining an alleged shoplifter. The shopkeeper’s privilege permits a store owner to use a reasonable amount of non-deadly force on an alleged shoplifter that is necessary to protect him or herself and prevent the suspect from escaping from the store while awaiting the arrival of the police.

For more guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney, we invite you to reach out to our law firm at the Spodek Law Group. Our lawyers provide free consultations, and we represent clients throughout the State of California.

Schedule Your Consultation Now