When you hear about someone stealing something, you probably think about pickpockets and shoplifters walking off with tangible items. However, “theft of services” is an equally real crime, even though the theft doesn’t involve any physical goods.

Theft of services refers to the act of intentionally securing someone’s services by deception, threat or fraud – with no intention to pay. It also applies when someone holds onto property past the period specified in a rental agreement without the owner’s consent.

Texas Penal Code Section 31.04 outlines this offense

Theft of services is more common than many people realize, since “services” can be broadly interpreted. Some examples of when this charge might be used include:

  • Leaving a bar without paying the tab you opened
  • “Dine and dash” situations (whether alone or in a group)
  • Refusing to pay for your hotel room when you leave
  • Not returning a rental car or a U-haul when required
  • Trying to evade a fare on a bus, subway or another form of transportation
  • Altering the reading on a gas or electric meter
  • Failing to pay a performer at a private party
  • Walking out of a hair or nail salon without paying 
  • Refusing to return rent-to-own furniture when required
  • Obtaining professional guidance under a service agreement without paying

Theft of services, like many other theft-related crimes, is penalized according to the value of what was stolen. If the services were minimal (valued at less than $100), it’s a Class C misdemeanor offense. If convicted, you would face up to $500 in fines. On the other end of the spectrum, if the services are worth $300,000 or more, then you would be charged with a felony of the first degree. If convicted, that means between five and 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. 

If you’ve been charged with theft of services, find out more about your defense options – before you speak to the police.