Civil recovery demands

Civil recovery demands

Retailers in the 50 States of the United States have the authority under state laws, that have been passed within the past several decades (starting in 1973[1]) to demand civil damages by letter notice from apprehended shoplifters.[2] A conviction for shoplifting (theft) is not a prerequisite to the civil demand for damages by the retailer. The civil demand can be made and settled before a civil lawsuit is filed against the shoplifter in the appropriate civil court. A civil demand may be made by the retailer under most state laws whether or not a criminal prosecution has been initiated by the retailers' loss prevention personnel or local law enforcement.


Specific States


A civil recovery demands letter.

California's "civil recovery" statute is California Penal Code section 490.5(b) and (c).[3] The statute provides that a person who steals merchandise from a merchant or a book from a library may be civilly liable to the merchant or library for between $50 and $500, plus costs, plus the value of the item stolen if it has not been recovered in its original condition. The parent(s) of a minor may be sued if the crime is committed by an unemancipated minor. An action to recover damages under this section may be brought in small claims or traditional civil court.


The Supreme Court of Oregon held that Oregon's civil recovery statute is constitutional.[4]


Tennessee law allow the recovery of the greater of $100 or twice the value of the stolen item.[5]

Further reading

Zimmerman, Amy (2008-02-20). "Big Retail Chains Dun Mere Suspects in Theft". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2008-02-21. 


  1. ^ Nemeth, Charles (2004). Private Security and the Law. Butterworth-Heineman. pp. 243. ISBN 0750677708. 
  2. ^ Budden, Michael (1999). Preventing Shoplifting Without Being Sued. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 128. ISBN 1567201199. 
  3. ^ "California Penal Code". Retrieved 2010-01-24. 
  4. ^ Payless Drug Stores v. Brown, 708 P.2d 1143 (Oregon Supreme Court 1985).
  5. ^ "Shoplifting Statutes and a Sample Civil Complaint Form Letter". Retrieved 2008-02-22. 

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