Many people believe that the only way they can be prosecuted for theft is if they physically take someone else’s stuff. However, there are various types of theft. An individual can be charged with theft of services in addition to theft of property. In this article, we’ll look at theft of services in the United States with a special study example in Texas.
What Is Theft of Services?
In criminal law, theft of services is a sort of offense that occurs when a person takes a service without properly compensating for the service. For example, if someone utilizes force, intimidation, deception, or any other illegal tactics to get a service, their acts may be considered theft of service.
This type of crime can also arise when a person purposefully fails to pay a corporation for its services and continues to make use of them until the company demands payment or ceases providing the service. Theft of service crime can also occur when a person purposefully re-routes a service that is already being paid for by another customer and uses the service without paying either the company or the other party.
Other thefts of services include:
When there is a confusion between the parties, such as when a corporation believes a client is already paying for the service and the customer believes they are being charged automatically;
- By mistake, for example, if a person is in a public place and uses a WiFi connection that does not belong to the public; and/or
- When a person is unaware that what they are doing is a sort of theft.
To report the theft of services offenses, a person or entity must first research the statutes of the state in which the crime is being reported, as well as the associated reporting requirements. In general, the person reporting the incident must assess whether they are dealing with a felony or a misdemeanor violation.
For example, if the value of the stolen services exceeds $10,000, theft of service offenses will almost certainly result in felony charges. Theft of service offenses that total more than $500 but less than $10,000, on the other hand, will be classified as a misdemeanor violation. Again, these figures are only suggestions. Each state will have its own set of variables that will be used to describe the sort of crime.
After determining if the theft of service charge is a felony or a misdemeanor, the individual can proceed with the actual reporting process. In the case of felonies, it is preferable if the individual notifies law enforcement directly and does not postpone settlement of the situation.
In contrast, if the crime is a misdemeanor and the individual is the victim, they may file a lawsuit in their local small claims court. If the lawsuit is successful, the individual may be compensated for any financial losses incurred as a result of the service theft action.
To win the lawsuit, the individual must be able to produce enough evidence that the services were stolen. As a result, before filing a claim for theft of services in court, make sure you have enough evidence.
What Are Some Examples of Theft of Services?
The following are some real-world circumstances that could be deemed theft of service crimes:
- Using hardware or software to unlawfully redirect WiFi and/or cable services to the individual’s residence;
- Not paying bills for services such as WiFi or cable after they have been installed (it makes no difference whether a person does this on purpose or by accident, as both will count as this type of crime);
- attempting to avoid paying medical or hospital fees;
- Adjusting an electric or gas meter attached to a person’s home in order to reduce the amount they will have to spend on energy bills each month;
- Using public transportation without purchasing a ticket or paying the proper costs (as a stowaway);
- Failure to pay for repair services such as home renovations, auto mechanic bills, or landscaping expenditures;
- Using another person’s credit card to pay for services
- Staying at a hotel or other similar hospitality service (for example, hotels, hostels, Airbnb, etc.) and checking out before paying the bill;
- Drinking or eating at a restaurant and then failing to pay the bill (also known as “dining and dashing”); and
- Finally, producing or delivering a counterfeit copy of a bill in order to deceive a service provider into believing the person has already paid for the services, pays less than they actually do, or pays more than they usually do in order to obtain further services.
If a person commits any of the aforementioned behaviors, they should be warned that they may be prosecuted for theft of services and suffer serious legal penalties.
What Are the Penalties for Theft of Services?
As previously stated, the rules and procedural procedures for theft of services will vary depending on the state in which the offense is prosecuted. As a result, the types of punishments that a court may impose vary depending on the jurisdiction.
The bulk of theft of services offenses is charged as larceny, which is further classified into two types: felony larceny and misdemeanor larceny.
If a person is convicted of minor larceny, they may be required to pay criminal fines to the state. The individual may also be sentenced to up to a year in prison. The amount of criminal fines and the length of jail time will be determined by the circumstances.
Persons convicted of felony larceny, on the other hand, will almost certainly face substantially severe consequences. They may be required to pay greater criminal fines and/or serve a prison sentence of at least a year or more. These figures can rise if the defendant is a repeat offender if a violent felony offense was committed alongside the theft of services, and/or if the value of the services stolen was higher than usual for similar offenses.
A victim of a crime may seek monetary damages in addition to criminal punishment by suing the culprit in civil court. In that case, a defendant may be required to pay both criminal and civil fines, as well as any monetary damages granted by the court.
Is There Any Defence Against Theft of Services?
A defendant may be able to raise a variety of various legal defenses against a charge or claim for theft of services.
A defendant, for example, may argue that they lacked intent or the level of intent required by state law for it to be considered theft of services. Depending on the specifics of the case, the defendant may also argue that they were entitled to the services provided they had evidence such as invoices proving they paid for them.
Furthermore, if there is sufficient evidence, the defendant may ask the court to have the case dismissed or the charges reduced. For example, if the defendant is charged with felony larceny but can prove that the number of services stolen only amounted to a misdemeanor crime, the court may opt to reduce the charges from felony to misdemeanor.
Finally, if a defendant was coerced into committing theft of service in order to avoid physical harm, the defendant may be able to use coercion as a legal defense. Again, the types of defenses available to a defendant will be determined by the laws of their jurisdiction.
What Kind of Evidence Is Required for Defence of Theft of Services?
The following types of evidence may be required to successfully raise a theft of service defense:
Any documents that lend credence to the defendant’s theory. For example, if they claim to be entitled to the services, they must present proof of receipts, paid service bills, witness testimonies from a service provider’s billing department, and so on.
In some circumstances, such as those involving actual hardware, a defendant may wish to use recordings or photographs to demonstrate that they could not have reasonably diverted the services or never did.
It is critical for paying customers to preserve receipts for power bills and other services. Most service providers now provide the option of paperless billing. A consumer may wish to enroll in the option in order to receive electronic receipts. If a person needs to use it as evidence, this can make it easier to print.
Finally, in addition to supporting a legal defense argument, such records can safeguard a person from false or fraudulent claims made by third parties.
What Are Some Examples of Texas Theft of Services Crimes?
Dining and dashing is a frequent example of service theft, in which you dine at a restaurant and then depart without paying. Here are a few more examples of theft of services in Texas:
- Public transportation fare evasion,
- Inability to pay for a hotel room
- Changing a gas or electric meter to save money on your monthly cost, and
- Failure to compensate a contractor for repair work.
What are the Penalties in Texas for the Theft of Services?
The penalty for theft of services convictions range from Class C misdemeanors to first-degree felonies, based mostly on the value of the services stolen.
- A value of less than $100 is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine.
- The value of $100 to $749 is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and up to 180 days in prison.
- A value of $750 to $2,499 is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a $4,000 fine and up to 180 days in prison.
- The value between $2,500 and $29,999 is a state jail felony punishable by up to two years in state prison and a $10,000 fine.
- A value of $30,000 to $149,999 is considered a third-degree crime, punishable by a prison sentence of two to ten years and a fine of up to $10,000.
- A value of $150,000 to $299,999 is a second-degree crime punishable by a prison term of two to twenty years and a fine of up to $10,000.
- Value of more than $300,000 is considered a first-degree felony, punishable by a jail sentence of five to 99 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
A criminal conviction for theft of services can have far-reaching implications in addition to penalties and jail time. It has the potential to impact employment, education, and housing opportunities.
What are the Potential Defenses of Texas Theft of Services Charges?
There is an affirmative defense of theft of services under Texas law when the defendant obtained the execution of duty by:
- Giving the individual conducting the service a post-dated check or similar sight order; and
- The check or sight order was presented to the person performing the service or any other person for payment before the check or sight order’s due date.
Other popular defenses are as follows:
- The right to use the services,
- Absence of intent to steal the services, as well as
- There isn’t any evidence.
Because every case is different, it is vital to deal with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Depending on the sort of theft of services performed, the conduct could be classified as a violation, a Class A misdemeanor, or a Class E felony in Texas.
If you are convicted of theft of services as a violation, your penalty may include up to 15 days in jail as well as a fine. If you are convicted of theft of services as a Class A misdemeanor, you might face up to a year in jail as well as a fine. Also, if you are convicted of theft of services as a Class E felony, you might face up to four years in jail as well as a fine.
Speak with an Attorney About a Theft of Services Charge
If you have been charged with theft of services, you should consult with a local criminal counsel as soon as possible. An expert criminal defense attorney can conduct a legal study to discover whether you have any legal defenses to the allegations. Your attorney can also ensure that your rights as a criminal defendant are adequately safeguarded and that you are well represented in court.
Alternatively, if you need to file charges for theft of services, you should consult a lawyer to verify that you follow the appropriate procedures and are not breaking any laws. If your lawyer determines that you have a solid claim and strong evidence to support it, he or she can also assist you in launching a civil action against another person to recover damages.
Theft of Services FAQs
Is Stealing a Theft?
Theft is a crime that is frequently referred to as “larceny.” In general, a crime is committed when someone takes and carries away another person’s property without permission and with the goal of permanently depriving the owner of it.
What is the distinction between theft and stealing?
In general, “theft” refers to all types of unlawful thieving, including identity theft, theft of intellectual property, theft of services, and theft of personal goods. Meanwhile, “larceny” is one sort of stealing within the larger category of theft.