Tennessee theft crimes are not limited to the taking of cash, property, or someone’s identity. A common example of theft of services included obtaining food or beverages from a restaurant and then leaving without paying for the meal or drinks. Another example includes staying in a hotel and then leaving without paying for the accommodations. Anyone who sneaks into a move or theater can also be charged with theft of services.
Other types of services that result in criminal charges include the theft of:
- Professional services such as medical or legal services
- Labor services such as landscaping or cleaning services
- Transportation services such as taxi, rideshare, or limo services
- Utility services including Internet services; telecommunication services; and traditional utilities such as gas, water, and electricity
Tennessee statute 39-14-104 provides:
“(a) A person commits theft of services who:
(1) Intentionally obtains services by deception, fraud, coercion, forgery, false statement, false pretense or any other means to avoid payment for the services;
(2) Having control over the disposition of services to others, knowingly diverts those services to the person’s own benefit or to the benefit of another not entitled thereto; or
(3) Knowingly absconds from establishments where compensation for services is ordinarily paid immediately upon the rendering of them, including, but not limited to, hotels, motels and restaurants, without payment or a bona fide offer to pay.
(b) Any individual directly or indirectly harmed by a violation of subsection (a) shall have legal standing to report such violations to law enforcement and testify in support of corresponding criminal charges.”
The intent requirement
A key element of theft by services charges is that the prosecution must show intent. It is a proper defense that the accused simply forgot to pay. The prosecution has the burden of showing that the accused knew a check he/she wrote for the services couldn’t be covered by the funds in a bank account. Generally, paying with false currency or connecting to a utility without going through the local utility company are signs of intent.
A valid dispute about the amount that is owed is generally a proper defense provided the accused offered to pay the lower amount.
The penalties for theft of services vary depending on the value of the services. Possible penalties include:
- Time in jail
- Fines and penalties
- A criminal record
- The requirement to pay for the services
At Delius & McKenzie, PLLC, our Sevierville theft defense lawyers fight to hold the prosecution to its duty to prove each element of a theft of service charge by a reasonable doubt. We fight to show there was no intent to pay for the services. We contest the value of the services. In many cases we can negotiate to reduce the charges to a lesser offense or obtain a dismissal of the charges. We also fight to obtain a jury acquittal. For help with any theft charge, call 865-280-3686 or fill our contact form to discuss your case. We represent anyone accused of theft in Sevierville, Seymour, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, or the surrounding Tennessee areas.