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Last Updated on: 19th October 2023, 08:02 pm
We all rely on services in our everyday lives – things like public transportation, utilities, entertainment services, and more. But what happens when someone takes advantage and gets those services without paying? That’s called theft of services, and it’s actually a crime.
In this article, we’ll break down what exactly theft of services is, what makes it illegal, and what the penalties are. We’ll also talk about some real-world examples so you can understand exactly what it looks like. Let’s dig in!
Theft of services is when someone obtains services that are only available for compensation without paying for them. It’s essentially stealing something that isn’t a physical item – things like electricity, WiFi, transportation, entertainment, food service, and more.
Some common examples include:
So how does this become illegal? Well, theft of services laws say that if someone specifically advertises that a service is only available for compensation, you can’t obtain that service without paying. It’s all about taking something that doesn’t belong to you.
Most states have laws that specifically prohibit theft of services and outline penalties. For example, in New York theft of services is a Class A Misdemeanor if the value is under $1,000. Anything over $1,000 bumps it up to a Class E Felony.
Penalties vary by state but often include:
Some states will increase penalties if it’s a repeat offense. And if it involves things like utility theft, penalties can be stiffer. Basically, the more valuable the service, the more serious the crime.
It’s helpful to look at real cases to understand how theft of services charges work. Here are some examples from around the U.S.:
In 2021, a group of five people were charged with theft of services after theater hopping at a Regal Cinema in Ohio. This means buying one movie ticket and then sneaking into other theaters to see more films for free.
Each person was fined $150 plus court costs – a light penalty, but still against the law.
In NYC, some people try to dodge subway fares by jumping over turnstiles instead of swiping a MetroCard. This led to nearly 4,000 theft of services arrests in 2022 alone.
The penalty? Up to $100 fine or 10 days community service for a first offense. But it increases for repeat offenders.
Stealing utilities like electricity and cable is a big problem. In Florida recently, a man was charged with a felony for rigging his electric meter to steal over $30,000 of power.
He paid over $35,000 in restitution and did 2 years probation. Utility theft is serious with big fines.
There are some defenses that may get theft of services charges reduced or even dismissed. Some common ones include:
Mitigating factors like having no prior offenses, demonstrating remorse, or paying restitution may also help reduce penalties if convicted.
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