12 New York Theft of Services Charges Explained
New York Theft of Services charges apply to a wide range of situations where payment is unlawfully withheld for a good or a service, by deception or fraud. Under New York Penal Law Section 165.15, theft of services can be charged by the prosecutor in these situations:
- Payment for a service with a stolen credit or debit card (PL 165.15(1));
- Dine & Dash (refusing to pay for a restaurant meal) (PL 165.15(2));
- Failure to pay for any transportation service rendered (PL 165.15(3));
- Failure to pay for utilities (PL 165.15(4));
- Sale of revoked access device (PL 165.15(5));
- Meter Tampering (PL 165.15(6));
- Diversion of Utility Meter (PL 165.15(7));
- Tampering With Utility Equipment (PL 165.15(8));
- Failure to Pay Admission Fee to Theatre or Concert Hall(PL 165.15(9));
- Diversion of Labor, Equipment or Facilities (PL 165.15(10));
- Use of Computer to Avoid Payment for a Computer-related Service (PL 165.15(11));
- Unjustifiable Refusal to Pay for Service Provided by Barber Shop or Beauty Salon (PL 165.15(12)).
There are 12 different provisions for New York State Theft of Services Charges. All of these charges, however, are Class “A” Misdemeanors. As such, they are punishable by up to 1 year in prison. The difference in these charges is explained below.
Payment for Service with a Stolen Credit Card (PL 165.15(1))
Under New York Penal Law Section 165.15(1), a person is guilty of Theft of Services when:
- 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.
Example of Payment for Service with a Stolen Credit Card
An example of this New York Theft of services charge is paying for your cell phone bill with a credit card that you know to be stolen. There is no requirement for this section that you get the supplier to agree to accept payment on credit basis specifically, so long as they have accept payment on the credit basis and that’s how you paid.
Dine & Dash (PL 165.15(2))
Dine and dash is exactly what it sounds like. Finishing a meal at a restaurant and running out on your tab. The elements of this New York Theft of Services charge are:
- With intent to avoid payment for restaurant services rendered,
- S/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.
Legal Presumption to New York Dine & Dash Charges
There is a legal presumption that applies to this New York Theft of Services charge. That is, if you did not pay your bill and it is presumed that you did so intentionally.
Practically speaking, however, sometimes there is confusion amongst friends about who was paying the restaurant tab, which results in an unintentional failure to pay the bill. These types of cases are very defensible, and most frequently do not result in a criminal record.
Example of Dine & Dash
An example of a Dine & Dash is a theft of services is ordering a meal at Zuma, finishing it, and running out of the restaurant after the bill arrives without making payment. A real-life New York City example of Dine and Dash is individuals running out on a $645 food tab.
Failure To Pay For Transportation Services (PL 165.15(3))
Theft of Services also applies to obtaining public transit services without proper payment. Such as through force, intimidation, stealth, tampering or simply by unjustifiable failure or refusal to pay. The elements of this Theft of Services Charge are:
- Intent to obtain railroad, subway, bus, air, taxi or any other transportation service without payment, OR
- Intent to avoid payment for transportation service which has been rendered to him,
- S/he obtains or attempts to obtain such service or avoids or attempts to avoid payment by:
- Mechanical Tampering; OR
- By unjustifiable failure or refusal to pay
Example of Failure To Pay For Transportation Services
An example of Theft of Services under the Failure to Pay for Transportation Services is bending of a Metrocard on the magnetic strip to gain free entry to the New York City Subway System.
Failure To Pay For Utilities (PL 165.15(4))
Another Theft of Services charge is for failure to pay the utilities. The elements of this New York Theft of Services charge are:
- With intent to avoid payment by himself or another person
- For a lawful charge for any telecommunications service provided for a fee or compensation, including:
- Cable TV;
- Telegraph; OR
- Telephone service
- Obtains or attempts to obtain such service or avoids to attempts to avoid service by:
- Tampering or making connection with the equipment of the supplier, whether by mechanical, electrical, acoustical or other means, OR
- 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 device, the principal function of which defeats a mechanism of electronic signal encryption, OR
- Any misrepresentation of fact which he knows to be false, OR
- Any other artifice, trick, deception, code or device.
Legal Presumption re: Tampering with Equipment
There is a legal presumption that when a person tampers with the supplier’s device or equipment without their consent, does so with the intent to avoid or enable someone else to avoid payment for service involved.
Example of Failure to Pay for Utilities
An example of New York Theft of Services through Failure to Pay for Utilities charge is rigging your home in such a way as to bypass the electric meter, thus obtaining electricity for free. Examples of New York Theft of Utilities can be found in New York Times’ coverage of the investigations conducted by Con Edison.
Sale of Revoked Access Device (PL 165.15(5))
Under New York Law, it is also a Theft of Services charge when (1) sell or offer for sale any cancelled or revoked access device, or (2) use without consent a revoked access device or (3) knowingly obtain telecommunications service by false pretense.
What is Access Service Device?
For the purposes of this Theft of Services section, an Access Service Device any of the following:
- Telephone calling card number;
- Credit card number;
- Account number;
- Mobile identification number;
- Electronic serial number; OR
- Any personal identification information that can be used to obtain a telephone number.
Example of Sale of Revoked Access Device
Although this New York Theft of services charge is largely outdated, as we no longer have house phones, it still applies in some situations. An example of sale of revoked access device is selling someone a pre-paid cell phone, while knowing that you have already used all the pre-paid minutes on it.
Meter Tampering (PL 165.15(6))
Meter Tampering as a Theft of Services charge is intentionally avoiding payment for a past or future service by tampering with the meter or device to prevent it from performing its function. Specifically, the elements of this Theft of Services charge are:
- With intent to avoid payment by self or another person;
- For a prospective or already rendered service;
- The charge for which is measured by a meter or another mechanical device;
- S/he tampers with said device or equipment or in any manner attempts to prevent the device from measuring the use;
- Without the concerns of the supplier of the service.
Legal Presumptions Applicable to Meter Tampering
Under New York Law, there is a legal presumption that if a meter or other equipment has been tampered with, then it is presumptive evidence that the person to whom the service was being furnished at the time of tampering, created or caused the condition of the meter or measuring device.
Additionally, there is a second legal presumption that applies to New York Meter Tampering. That is, a person who tampers its such device or equipment without the consent of the supplier, does so with intent to avoid payment for service.
Example of Meter Tampering
An example of New York Meter Tampering is creating a new gas line to bypass the gas meter. This happened in 2015 in the East Village, resulting in the death of two individuals and damage to multiple buildings.
Diversion of a Utility Meter (PL 165.15(7))
Diversion of a Utility Meter can be charged in situations where individuals knowingly receive benefit of a utility service (such as gas, steam, or electricity), which should pass through a meter but have been diverted from there, or which have been diverted from the pipes.
Under the New York Diversion of Utility Meter charge, it is presumptive evince that the person who accepts or receives the benefit of utilities, which have been diverted, does so with knowledge of the existence of the condition.
Example of Diversion of a Utility Meter
An example of Diversion of a Utility Meter is a pizzeria benefitting from the gas being diverted from the main pipe, bypassing the gas meter. This exact case happened in 2015.
Tampering With Utility Equipment (PL 165.15(8))
This Theft of Services charges has the following elements:
- With intent to obtain, without the consent of the supplier,
- A utility service (such as gas, electricity, water, steam or telephone service),
- S/he tampers with any supply equipment
- To prevent the supply of such service either to the community in general or to a specific location.
Example of Tampering With Utility Equipment
An example of this charge is cutting the power supply wires leading to your neighbor’s house.
Failure to Pay Admission Fee To Theatre or Concert Hall (PL 165.15(9))
New York Theft of Services Charge also applies to situations where admission fee isn’t paid for theatre, concert hall or use of a chair lift, gondola, rope-tow or any other device used to assist skiers in transportation to the point of a ski arrival or departure. The elements of this charge are:
- Intent to avoid payment of the lawful charge for admission,
- To any theatre, concert hall or use of a chair lift or similar skier-assistance device;
- Obtaining or attempting to obtain such admission without payment of a lawful charge.
Examples of Failure to Pay Admission Fee to Theatre, Concert Hall, or Ski Lift
An example of this theft of service charge is sneaking into the movie theater without paying for a ticket.
Diversion of Labor, Equipment or Facilities (PL 165.15(10))
Another New York Theft of Services charge is Diversion of Labor, Equipment or Facilities. Under this provision, it is a crime to divert business, commercial or industrial equipment with intent to obtain a benefit to himself or another party. The elements of this charge are:
- Obtaining or having control over labor of another person, OR of business, commercial or industrial equipment of another person;
- Knowing that s/he is not entitled to the use of such equipment; AND
- With intent to derive a commercial or another substantial benefit;
- S/he uses or diverts the use of such labor, equipment or facilities.
Example of Diversion of Labor, Equipment or Facilities
An example of New York diversion of labor, equipment or facilities is while being a labor foreman with a crew to repave the road, you re-direct the crew to your house to repave your driveway instead.
Use of Computer To Avoid Payment for a Computer Service (PL 165.15(11))
Under New York Law, it is also a crime to use a computer or a computer network to avoid payment for a computer, computer service or a computer network. The elements of this charge are:
- With intent to avoid payment by self, or by another person;
- For a lawful charge for the use of any computer, computer service or a computer network which is provided for a charge;
- S/he 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.
Legal Presumption Applicable to Use of a Computer to Avoid Payment for a Computer Service
Under this charge, proof that a person overcame or attempted to overcome any device or coding system the function of which is to prevent unauthorized use of a computer, is presumptive evidence of an intent to avoid payment for the computer or computer service.
Example of Use of Computer to Avoid Payment for a Computer Service
An example of this theft of services charge is hacking into your internet provider’s server and voiding out the bills for your internet service.
Unjustifiable Refusal to Pay for Service Provided by Barber Shop or Beauty Salon (PL 165.15(12))
The final of the New York Theft of Services charges is unjustifiable refusal to pay for service provided by barber shop or beauty salon. As the charge uses the word “unjustifiable,” withholding payment for a job poorly done seems to be permissible under this charge.
The elements of unjustifiable refusal to pay for service provided by barber shop or beauty salon are:
- With intent to avoid payment for services rendered by a barbershop, salon or beauty shop;
- S/he avoids or attempts to avoid such payment,
- By unjustifiable failure or refusal to pay, by stealth, or may misrepresentation of fact which s/he knows to be false.
Example of Unjustifiable Refusal to Pay for Service Provided by Barber Shop or Beauty Salon
An example of unjustifiable refusal to pay is getting your hair done, getting it done to your liking, but making up an excuse as to how you do not like the work done and withholding payment. Once again, refusing to pay for a bad job or negotiating the price down appears to allowed under this charge.
Penalties and Sentencing for New York Theft of Services Charges
New York Theft of Services is a Class “A” misdemeanor. As such, this charge is punishable by up to 1 year in prison or by up to 3 years probation. There are, however, a few exceptions to this statement:
- Theft of cable television service under New York Penal Law 165.15(4) with the value under $100 is a violation, which is punishable by up to 15 days in prison.
- Failure to pay for an admission ticket to the theater or the movies under Penal Law 165.15(9), or a ski lift is a violation. So long as the person has previously not been convicted under this section.
- Unjustifiable failure to pay for services provided by a barber shop or a beauty shop is a violation under New York Penal Law 165.15(12). As long as the individual previously hasn’t been convicted of this charge.
- Theft of telephone services in violation of New York Penal Law 165.15(5) when either: (1) the value of items is over $1,000 or (2) when the actor has been convicted of this charge in 5 years, is a Class “E” Non-Violent Felony. As such, this particular charge is punishable by up to 1 1/3 to 4 years in prison. However, sentences of probation, conditional discharge or unconditional discharge are possible.
Crimes Frequently Charged with New York Theft of Services Cases
Frequently, if you are charged with committing a Theft of services, the prosecutor will also charge you with these companion crimes:
Petit Larceny is the stealing of someone else’s property. This charge is a Class “A” Misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 1 year in prison. There is no dollar amount that is required for the value of the property for the Petit Larceny charge. So, this charge could apply to anything from a pack of gum to a luxury car.
Grand Larceny is the stealing of someone else’s property, which is valued over $1,000. It will be a companion charge to Theft of Services, when the value of the unlawfully obtained property or service is over $1,000.
Criminal Possession of Stolen Property
New York Criminal Possession of Stolen Property Charge is the knowing and unlawful possession of someone else’s property. This crime will be charged in a theft of services situation, if there is a physical good, rather than a service that is unlawfully possessed.
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