A theft of services occurs when a person obtains services without providing the appropriate compensation for the services. This usually happens when a person intentionally fails to pay a company for the services they have provided to them. It can also happen when a person intentionally diverts services from another customer without reimbursing the paying customer and without informing the services company. Some examples of theft of services include:
- Stealing cable, wi-fi, or internet connectivity
- Not paying for home improvement, gardening or landscaping projects
- Not paying utility bills, or diverting services from another property
- Failing to pay a mechanic for car repairs
- The use of fraud or misrepresentation on a bill or application form
Are There Any Defenses to Theft of Services?
Like any criminal theft charge, there may be a number of defenses available when it comes to a theft of services charge. The type of defense that a defendant can claim will vary on a number of factors, such as the type of services stolen, applicable state and local theft laws, and what types of parties were involved in the incident.
Most theft charges require an intentional act on the part of the defendant. Thus, if the defendant was not aware of a theft going on, or if they did not intentionally attempt to steal or defraud anyone, it might serve as a defense to the charges. Other defenses may include:
- The defendant actually paid for the services
- Defendant was legally entitled to the service, which can happen if there is a mix-up with the person’s name or information and another party’s information
- Lack of evidence to support the theft charge
- Coercion (i.e. the defendant was forced to commit the theft under threat of harm- this can happen for instance in a drug case where the defendant is forced to steal utilities in order to manufacture drugs)
Penalties for theft of services can include criminal fines and jail time. The severity of the penalties depends on the total amount stolen, as well as the existence of any previous charges.
What Type of Evidence Is Needed When Raising a Theft of Service Defense?
When claiming a theft defense, it is most often necessary to provide documentation in support of the defense theory. This can include documents such as receipts, paid bill statements, and witness statements. In some cases, photographs or video can help the person’s case, especially in cases where utilities have been physically diverted from the paying source. Keeping receipts and documents can also protect the defendant from fraud and false claims by other parties.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with a Theft of Services Defense?
Theft of services is a very serious crime. You may need to hire a criminal law attorney in your area if you need assistance with a theft of services defense. Your lawyer can help research and explain the laws so that you understand what your legal rights and options area. Also, if you need to appear in court or make an appearance for negotiations, your criminal lawyer can provide representation during those crucial times as well.