My question involves criminal law for the state of: Texas
So I received my second letter the other day from Walmart in this ridiculous shoplifting case. Please read this and let me know what I should do.
Last December (2010) I bought about $200 worth of groceries and then walked down to pick out a Christmas tree. On the way to get the tree I saw a few items on a side display and put them in my cart and intended to pay for them when I checked out with the tree. When I got to the tree section and picked one out, the assistant told me there was nobody working the register there and gave me the tear-off ticket from the tree and said to walk back to the cashiers and buy the tree, so I did just that and left my cart right in the garden section where the trees were......TOTALLY forgetting I had unpaid items in my cart. Paid for the $70 tree and walked back and the assistant told me to pull my truck up so I grabbed my cart and walked out. Don't ask me how I didn't realize the items when I unloaded everything in my truck becasue I honestly don't remember. A week later I get a post on my facebook page from a police officer asking me to call him, so I return his call right away and he tells me the situation and that Walmart filed charges against me! My jaw hit the floor and I told the officer exactly what happened and that it was an honest mistake. He said that is exactly what thought it was because it just didnt' add up with a guy like me and from the video footage. He said he wasn't going to pursue the case and told me to just go down to Walmart and settle up. I went down there that night after work and asked to talk to the manager, instead I was met by two people, a guy and a girl dressed like regular customers. They were employees of the 3rd party contract company Walmart uses during holiday seasons. I told the people who I was, what happened and that I'd like to pay for the items. He told me he was the guy that was following me on the camera and although he knew exactly what the items were he would not accept any money because once a charge is filed that is it, it is engraved in stone and not even Zues himself can retract the forces of nature that will be bringing the wrath upon me. Ok, he didn't quite say that but you get the point and that he was a total jerk of a want to be cop. I left him my name, phone number & address and all my contact info and asked that the store manager please call me immediately as well as his direct supervisor. He said he'd pass it along but alas, after two weeks I still didnt receive anything. At this point I figured I did as much as humanly possible to try and make good and they didn't take it so I just left it alone. 8 months later (beginning of August 2011) I get the first letter from Walmart saying that they "might" sue me unless I pay them $200 and if I don't then the price goes up. What the heck?? That's ridiculous. So I try to make good on everything and then after 8 months they come in saying I've got 2 weeks to pay them $200 or else? I dismissed it thinking it was typical corporate bullying and last week I received my second letter now asking for $550. It's funny because asking for more $ only makes me want to take this to court all the more. I looked up the Texas civil code they imply in their letter and it states the maximum they can sue for is $1000. However they also state in the letter they will also sue for court costs and attorney fees. That's when I decided to hop online and seek some advice.
This whole thing is so ridiculously insane, it was a common and HONEST mistake....could of happened to anybody. And if I fight this I could potentially be looking at like $4k or $5k for accidentally walking out with $30 worth of stuff? I believe I would have a jury if I went to court and am I right that the only way Walmart would get me to pay their legal fees is if the jury decides that for them? I just dont' see a jury siding with big corporate Walmart on this one but I'm not sure what to do. I've written a letter and I'm about to send it to Walmart's Ethics committee, which I found online, and ask them to please drop these ridiculous charges and explain the situation. Should I contact the attorneys and explain what happened? I'm not really worried about saying anything to the attorney's that could be held against me because I'm not hiding anything.....yes I did walk out with unpaid items. Any help anyone can offer is greatly appreciated. From the quick searches I did it looks like I'm not the only one who has dealt with this but not sure what to do. I guess I could pay the $200 but it would not be with a happy smile on my face...... it eats at me to pay 5x the value of something 8 months later simply because Walmart says so. But, like I explain in my letter to the Ethics Committee, I make almost $100k a year....$200 isn't that big of deal to me let alone the idea that I go around steeling $30 worth of stuff at local walmarts. :-/