Many Texans are not aware that they can face criminal charges for obtaining a service and not paying for it. When a person uses a threat or deception to avoid paying for a service, they can face criminal theft of service charges in Texas. Theft of service charges can also occur when a person agrees to make a payment for a service and then refuses to pay for the service after it is rendered. Additionally, renting something and then keeping it beyond the agreed rental period can result in theft of service charges.
Is the crime of theft of services a felony or a misdemeanor? It depends on the value of the property or assets that were stolen. The more serious the criminal charge, the greater the associated penalty. Defendants who stole a service worth over $300,000 face felony charges punishable by up to life in prison. However, if the value of the stolen service is under $100, the defendant will face Class C misdemeanor charges that carry no jail time and only require a fine up to $500.
What is the Crime of Theft of Service?
According to Texas law, a defendant can be charged with theft of service when they take one or more of the following actions:
- The defendant intentionally or knowingly secured a service by threat, deception, or false token
- The defendant controlled a service he or she is not entitled to
- The defendant intentionally diverted someone else’s service for his or her benefit
- The defendant held property past the expiration date on a rental agreement without the owner’s consent
- The defendant agreed to provide compensation for a service, but failed to pay for it after it was rendered
Examples of the Crime of Theft of Service
One of the most common examples of theft of service is cable theft. Suppose someone gets access to a multi-channel video service called cable, through physical, electronic, digital, or another type of connection. If the person does not have the cable service provider’s consent and is not paying for the service, he or she can face charges for service theft. Similarly, suppose a person manipulates a cable signal to access premium cable channels or Pay-Per-View channels without the cable service provider’s consent. In that case, he or she can face charges.
Another example of theft of service involves gaining access to internet service without the owner of the internet service or the internet service provider. For example, if someone connects to another person’s wireless internet service through hacking and without paying for the service, he or she can face service theft crime charges.
Theft of service crimes do not always involve cable and internet providers. A common example of theft of service would be someone ordering drinks at a restaurant and then leaving the restaurant before paying the bill. When someone orders a taxi cab service and darts out of the taxi without paying the tab, they have committed a service theft crime.
Categories of Punishment for Theft of Service Charges
Under Texas law, a felony is any crime resulting in a penalty of at least one year in prison. Misdemeanors are crimes that are punishable by less than a year in prison. If you are facing a criminal charge for theft of service, you may be facing a misdemeanor or a felony charge. The level of the charge depends on the value of the service or services that you allegedly stole. Penalties for theft of service are as follows:
- When the value of the stolen services is worth $100 or less, the defendant will face Class C misdemeanor charges, punishable by a fine of up to $500
- When the value of the stolen services is between $100 and $750, the defendant will face Class B misdemeanor charges, punishable by a fine of up to 180 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,000
- When the value of the service stolen is between $750 and $2,500 the defendant can face Class A misdemeanor charges which carry a jail sentence of up to 180 days and/or a fine of up to $4,000
- When the value of the stolen service is between $2,500 and $30,000, the defendant will face a state jail felony punishable by a state jail term between 180 days and two years and/or a fine of up to $10,000
- When the value of the stolen service is between $30,000 and $150,000, the defendant will face a third-degree felony charge, punishable by a prison sentence between two and 10 years and/or a fine of up to $10,000
- When the value of the stolen Services is between $150,000 and $300,000, the defendant will face a second-degree felony charge, punishable by between two and 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000
- When the value of the stolen service is over $300,000, the defendant will face a first-degree felony charge, punishable by between five and 99 years in prison or life in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000
Contact a Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
There are several defenses one can make when charged with a crime of theft of service. The defendant can provide a post-dated check or a similar type of signed order to the person performing the service, proving that he or she paid for the service before it took place.
If you have been arrested or charged with the crime of theft of service in Texas, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer. At the Law Offices of Steven Jumes, we provide our clients with skilled and assertive criminal defense representation. Contact hour criminal defense law firm today to schedule your initial consultation and learn how we can advocate for your rights.