When most people hear the term “theft,” they think of theft of property. However, in Texas, the crime also includes the theft of services you have not paid for.
According to Texas Penal Code §31.04, a person commits theft of services if he or she:
- Intentionally or knowingly secures a service by deception or threat;
- Using services for his own benefit when the services belong to someone else;
- Holds control of personal property past the expiration date of the rental agreement, without the consent of the owner; or
- Secures a service by agreeing to provide compensation but fails to make payment after the service is rendered.
The court will presume that you intended to avoid payment for services if:
- You left without paying for the service or expressly refused to pay for the service in circumstances where payment is ordinarily made immediately, as in hotels, campgrounds, recreational vehicle parks, and restaurants.
- You failed to make payment under a service agreement within ten days after receiving a notice demanding payment.
- You returned property under a rental agreement after the expiration of the rental agreement and failed to pay the applicable rental charge for the property within ten days after the date that you received a notice demanding payment.
- You failed to return property held under a rental agreement within five days after receiving a notice demanding return if the property is valued at less than $2,500. If the property is valued at $2,500 or more, you failed to return it within three days after receiving notice demanding its return.
What are Examples of Theft of Service Crimes in Texas?
The term “service” covers many different things, including:
- Labor and professional services;
- Telecommunication, public utility, or transportation services;
- Lodging services;
- Restaurant services;
- Entertainment services; and
- Car rental services.
A common example of theft of services is dining and dashing, where you eat out at a restaurant and leave without paying. A few other examples include:
- Fare evasion on public transportation,
- Failure to pay for a hotel room,
- Altering a gas or electric meter to pay less on a monthly bill, and
- Failure to pay a contractor for repair work.
What are the Penalties for Theft of Services in Texas?
The penalties for theft of services convictions range drastically from Class C misdemeanors to first-degree felonies, depending primarily on the value of services.
- A value less than $100 is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500.
- A value between $100 and $749 is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and a jail sentence of up to 180 days.
- A value between $750 and $2,499 is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $4,000 and up to 180 days in jail.
- A value between $2,500 and $29,999 is a state jail felony, punishable by a jail sentence of up to two years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
- A value between $30,000 and $149,999 is a third-degree felony, punishable by a prison sentence between two and ten years and a fine of up to $10,000.
- A value between $150,000 and $299,999 is a second-degree felony, punishable by a jail sentence between two and 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
- A value over $300,000 is a first-degree felony punishable by a prison sentence from five to 99 years and a fine of up to $10,000
In addition to fines and jail time, a criminal conviction for theft of services can have outside consequences. It can affect employment, education, and housing opportunities.
What are Potential Defenses to Theft of Services Charges in Texas?
Under Texas law, there is an affirmative defense when the defendant secured the performance of service by:
- Giving a post-dated check or similar sight order to the person performing the service; and
- The person performing the service or any other person was presented the check or sight order for payment before the date on the check or sight order.
Other common defenses include:
- Entitlement to the services,
- Lack of intent to steal the services, and
- Lack of evidence.
Every case is unique, so it is critical to work with a qualified criminal defense attorney.
Your Frisco Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or a loved one are facing theft of service charges, you should reach out to an experienced Frisco criminal defense attorney. Philip D. Ray is an experienced Frisco attorney who will make sure that your rights are protected. Call Philip D. Ray today to schedule a consultation at (469) 588-6770