How to Charge Someone With Theft of Services

By Jennifer Eblin - Updated June 12, 2017
Mechanic Holding Clipboard In Front Of Open Car Engine

Theft of service is a criminal charge determined by each state. In general it refers to a person who receives a good or service and then doesn't pay. It frequently applies to individuals who leave a restaurant or hotel before paying for their bill, or receive goods from a company and don’t pay. It can be difficult to charge someone with theft of services, but it is still possible.

Determine the type of charge you want to level against the person. One type of charge relates to someone who accepts a service without paying for the charge, another to someone who diverts service from a paying customer for their own use, while the another refers to a person who lies or deceives as a way of not paying for those services.

Gather proof of the theft on the part of the individual. This varies depending on what was taken. A hotel owner might present proof that the individual signed into the hotel, while a restaurant might show the reservation of the individual or security footage of them entering or exiting the building.

Decide if the case is a misdemeanor or felony. This is determined by each state, but most follow similar guidelines. If the theft was more than $500, but less than $10,000, it’s treated as a misdemeanor case. If the theft was higher than $10,000, then you’re dealing with a felony case.

Contact the authorities for felony cases. In cases where the theft was substantial, such as acquiring goods without paying for those products, you’ll need to involve the authorities. Once you present your claim and proof of the theft, the police force will help you press charges.

File a suit in small claims court if the case involves less than $10,000 and is viewed as a misdemeanor. In smaller cases, the only way you can try to get your money back is by filing in small claim’s court. You’ll need to present proof of the theft and the deception, as well as the amount owed.

Tip

Speak with your local police force about the laws in your specific state. As the definition of theft of services changes from state to state, you’ll need to know exactly how it applies to your state and your situation.

Warning

You typically only get one chance to state your case. Until you gather enough evidence to state your case completely, wait on pressing charges. If you move too soon, you might lose your case and watch the thief walk away free.

About the Author

Jennifer Eblin has been a full-time freelance writer since 2006. Her work has appeared on several websites, including Tool Box Tales and Zonder. Eblin received a master's degree in historic preservation from the Savannah College of Art and Design.

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