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Theft of Services (Penal Law 165.15) Explained by a Criminal Defense Lawyer

A very common arrest charge in New York City is Theft of Services, a Class A misdemeanor under Penal Law Section 165.15. In fact, the Wall Street Journal published an article on June 25, 2012 on the rise in “farebeat” cases. The offense itself is punishable by up to one year in jail. Sometimes people get arrested for this crime and have to spend a night in jail, and sometimes they just receive a Desk Appearance Ticket, or DAT, which allows them to come back to court on another date without having to go through Central Booking.

There are eleven different subsections in Penal Law Section 165.15, meaning that it is possible to commit this crime in a wide variety of ways. By far the two most common type of arrests stem from subsections (2) and (3), however. Subsection 2 states that a person is guilty of Theft of Services when, “[w]ith intent to avoid payment for restaurant services rendered, or for services rendered to him as a transient guest at 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.” Thus, a person who intentionally skips out on a restaurant or hotel bill can be arrested and convicted and sentenced to up to one year in prison. Plea bargains are common in these types of cases, however, where the accused agrees to pay back the money owed. Interestingly, though, there is no “aggravated theft of services” charge, meaning that even if the hotel bill is in the tens of thousands of dollars, the worst possible crime that can be charged is an A misdemeanor, generally speaking. In short, the Grand Larceny statutes in Penal Law Chapter 155 do not apply to restaurant or hotel services. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why “dining and dashing” is supposedly on the rise at swanky restaurants in New York City.

Subsection 3 states that a person is guilty of theft of services when “[w]ith 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.”

Basically, this is the subsection applied to those people caught “jumping the turnstile” at the subway station, or using a school-issued subway pass on the weekend, for example. We have also represented people that got into taxis while intoxicated and were arrested after arriving at their destination without any money to pay the driver; again, subsection 3 can apply to this situation. Finally, we understand that many New Yorkers regularly decline to pay their bus fare, though, in our experience, they are rarely arrested or apprehended.

The other subsections can be quickly summarized as follows:

1. Using a credit/debit card that you know is stolen;

4. Stealing a utility service (gas, electric, cable TV, etc.);

5. Stealing telephone service;

6. Tampering with a meter to avoid paying a fee;

7. Intentionally accepting/receiving utility services when the meter is broken;

8. Tampering with utility equipment with intent to steal said utility service;

9. Attending a movie or theatre show without paying the required admission (i.e. stealing admission);

10. “Stealing” labor – i.e. fooling your employees into doing work that you don’t intend to pay them for;

11. Stealing computer services.

If you or a loved one have been arrested or issued a DAT for Theft of Services or some other crime, you should strongly consider hiring the experienced theft of services criminal defense attorneys to represent you.

The Law Office of Matthew Galluzzo is team of former prosecutors has successfully represented numerous individuals charged with violations of Penal Law Section 165.15, and their prices are reasonable. Give them a call to schedule a consultation: 212-918-4661.

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