New York Penal Law § 165.15: Theft of services

When we think of theft, most of us think about tangle property being stolen such as money, jewelry, a television or a car. However, a common theft crime involves not stealing merchandise, a vehicle or money, but stealing services such as utility services, a cab ride or restaurant services. Under New York Penal Law § 165.15, you could be prosecuted for theft of services if you:

  1. Obtain a service by using a credit or debit card you know to be stolen,
  2. Obtain services from a hotel or restaurant and intentionally fail to pay,
  3. Obtain railroad, subway, bus, air, taxi, or any other public transportation service without payment by stealth, deceit, or mechanical tampering,
  4. Obtain a telecommunication or utility service by tampering, the use of a decoder, misrepresentation, fraud, or use of a cancelled or revoked access device,
  5. Obtain admission to a theater or concert hall by use of mechanical device, or
  6. Access computer services without paying.

Example

Judy and Joey enjoy a meal at a restaurant. The bill is over $150. When the server placed the check on the table, Joey opens it up and places only a $10 bill in the folder. Judy and Joey then casually get up and walk out of the restaurant. Both Judy and Joey could be prosecuted for theft of services as they left the restaurant after having only pretended to pay the full amount of the check.

Related Offenses
  1. Criminal tampering in the third degree: New York Penal Law § 145.14
  2. Criminal tampering in the second degree: New York Penal Law § 145.15
  3. Criminal tampering in the first degree: New York Penal Law § 145.20
Defenses

To be convicted of theft services, your actions would have to be intentional. If, for example, you walk out of a restaurant without paying the check believing that your dinner companion was going to pay, you would have a defense to a charge of theft of services.

Sentence

Depend on the type of theft of services that you committed the offense would be considered a violation, a Class A misdemeanor or a Class E felony.

If you are convicted of theft of services as a violation, your sentence may include a jail sentence of up to 15 days as well as fine. If you are convicted of theft of services as a Class A misdemeanor, your sentence may include a jail sentence of up to 1 year as well as fine. If you are convicted of theft of services as a Class E felony your sentence may include a prison sentence of up to 4 years as well as fine.

New York Penal Law § 165.15: Theft of services

A person is guilty of theft of services when:

  1. He obtains or attempts to obtain a service, or induces or attempts to induce the supplier of a rendered service to agree to payment therefor on a credit basis, by the use of a credit card or debit card which he knows to be stolen.
  2. With intent to avoid payment for restaurant services rendered, or for services rendered to him as a transient guest at a hotel, motel, inn, tourist cabin, rooming house or comparable establishment, he avoids or attempts to avoid such payment by unjustifiable failure or refusal to pay, by stealth, or by any misrepresentation of fact which he knows to be false. A person who fails or refuses to pay for such services is presumed to have intended to avoid payment therefor; or
  3. With intent to obtain railroad, subway, bus, air, taxi or any other public transportation service without payment of the lawful charge therefor, or to avoid payment of the lawful charge for such transportation service which has been rendered to him, he obtains or attempts to obtain such service or avoids or attempts to avoid payment therefor by force, intimidation, stealth, deception or mechanical tampering, or by unjustifiable failure or refusal to pay; or
  4. With intent to avoid payment by himself or another person of the lawful charge for any telecommunications service, including, without limitation, cable television service, or any gas, steam, sewer, water, electrical, telegraph or telephone service which is provided for a charge or compensation, he obtains or attempts to obtain such service for himself or another person or avoids or attempts to avoid payment therefor by himself or another person by means of (a) tampering or making connection with the equipment of the supplier, whether by mechanical, electrical, acoustical or other means, or (b) offering for sale or otherwise making available, to anyone other than the provider of a telecommunications service for such service provider's own use in the provision of its service, any telecommunications decoder or descrambler, a principal function of which defeats a mechanism of electronic signal encryption, jamming or individually addressed switching imposed by the provider of any such telecommunications service to restrict the delivery of such service, or (c) any misrepresentation of fact which he knows to be false, or (d) any other artifice, trick, deception, code or device. For the purposes of this subdivision the telecommunications decoder or descrambler described in paragraph (b) above or the device described in paragraph (d) above shall not include any non-decoding and non-descrambling channel frequency converter or any television receiver type-accepted by the federal communications commission. In any prosecution under this subdivision, proof that telecommunications equipment, including, without limitation, any cable television converter, descrambler, or related equipment, has been tampered with or otherwise intentionally prevented from performing its functions of control of service delivery without the consent of the supplier of the service, or that telecommunications equipment, including, without limitation, any cable television converter, descrambler, receiver, or related equipment, has been connected to the equipment of the supplier of the service without the consent of the supplier of the service, shall be presumptive evidence that the resident to whom the service which is at the time being furnished by or through such equipment has, with intent to avoid payment by himself or another person for a prospective or already rendered service, created or caused to be created with reference to such equipment, the condition so existing. A person who tampers with such a device or equipment without the consent of the supplier of the service is presumed to do so with intent to avoid, or to enable another to avoid, payment for the service involved. In any prosecution under this subdivision, proof that any telecommunications decoder or descrambler, a principal function of which defeats a mechanism of electronic signal encryption, jamming or individually addressed switching imposed by the provider of any such telecommunications service to restrict the delivery of such service, has been offered for sale or otherwise made available by anyone other than the supplier of such service shall be presumptive evidence that the person offering such equipment for sale or otherwise making it available has, with intent to avoid payment by himself or another person of the lawful charge for such service, obtained or attempted to obtain such service for himself or another person or avoided or attempted to avoid payment therefor by himself or another person; or
  5. With intent to avoid payment by himself or another person of the lawful charge for any telephone service which is provided for a charge or compensation he (a) sells, offers for sale or otherwise makes available, without consent, an existing, canceled or revoked access device; or (b) uses, without consent, an existing, canceled or revoked access device; or (c) knowingly obtains any telecommunications service with fraudulent intent by use of an unauthorized, false, or fictitious name, identification, telephone number, or access device. For purposes of this subdivision access device means any telephone calling card number, credit card number, account number, mobile identification number, electronic serial number or personal identification number that can be used to obtain telephone service.
  6. With intent to avoid payment by himself or another person for a prospective or already rendered service the charge or compensation for which is measured by a meter or other mechanical device, he tampers with such device or with other equipment related thereto, or in any manner attempts to prevent the meter or device from performing its measuring function, without the consent of the supplier of the service. In any prosecution under this subdivision, proof that a meter or related equipment has been tampered with or otherwise intentionally prevented from performing its measuring function without the consent of the supplier of the service shall be presumptive evidence that the person to whom the service which is at the time being furnished by or through such meter or related equipment has, with intent to avoid payment by himself or another person for a prospective or already rendered service, created or caused to be created with reference to such meter or related equipment, the condition so existing. A person who tampers with such a device or equipment without the consent of the supplier of the service is presumed to do so with intent to avoid, or to enable another to avoid, payment for the service involved; or
  7. He knowingly accepts or receives the use and benefit of service, including gas, steam or electricity service, which should pass through a meter but has been diverted therefrom, or which has been prevented from being correctly registered by a meter provided therefor, or which has been diverted from the pipes, wires or conductors of the supplier thereof. In any prosecution under this subdivision proof that service has been intentionally diverted from passing through a meter, or has been intentionally prevented from being correctly registered by a meter provided therefor, or has been intentionally diverted from the pipes, wires or conductors of the supplier thereof, shall be presumptive evidence that the person who accepts or receives the use and benefit of such service has done so with knowledge of the condition so existing; or
  8. With intent to obtain, without the consent of the supplier thereof, gas, electricity, water, steam or telephone service, he tampers with any equipment designed to supply or to prevent the supply of such service either to the community in general or to particular premises; or
  9. With intent to avoid payment of the lawful charge for admission to any theatre or concert hall, or with intent to avoid payment of the lawful charge for admission to or use of a chair lift, gondola, rope-tow or similar mechanical device utilized in assisting skiers in transportation to a point of ski arrival or departure, he obtains or attempts to obtain such admission without payment of the lawful charge therefor.
  10. Obtaining or having control over labor in the employ of another person, or of business, commercial or industrial equipment or facilities of another person, knowing that he is not entitled to the use thereof, and with intent to derive a commercial or other substantial benefit for himself or a third person, he uses or diverts to the use of himself or a third person such labor, equipment or facilities.
  11. With intent to avoid payment by himself, herself, or another person of the lawful charge for use of any computer, computer service, or computer network which is provided for a charge or compensation he or she uses, causes to be used, accesses, or attempts to use or access a computer, computer service, or computer network and avoids or attempts to avoid payment therefor. In any prosecution under this subdivision proof that a person overcame or attempted to overcome any device or coding system a function of which is to prevent the unauthorized use of said computer or computer service shall be presumptive evidence of an intent to avoid payment for the computer or computer service. Theft of services is a class A misdemeanor, provided, however, that theft of cable television service as defined by the provisions of paragraphs (a), (c) and (d) of subdivision four of this §, and having a value not in excess of one hundred dollars by a person who has not been previously convicted of theft of services under subdivision four of this § is a violation, that theft of services under subdivision nine of this § by a person who has not been previously convicted of theft of services under subdivision nine of this § is a violation and provided further, however, that theft of services of any telephone service under paragraph (a) or (b) of subdivision five of this § having a value in excess of one thousand dollars or by a person who has been previously convicted within five years of theft of services under paragraph (a) of subdivision five of this § is a class E felony.
New York Theft of Services Lawyer

Whether you are charged with theft of services as a violation, misdemeanor or felony, your could end up spending some time behind bars. However, there are defenses to a charge of theft of services that could result in the charge being dropped or reduced. The staff at Stephen Bilkis & Associates, PLLC has years of experience successfully defending clients in New York criminal courts who have been charged with crimes such as theft of services, larceny, criminal trespass, criminal mischief, and criminal possession of stolen property. Contact us at 1.800.NY.NY.LAW (1.800.696.9529) to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We serve those accused of theft in the following locations:

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