Being charged with any crime can be a life-changing experience. The charge of “theft of services” is not one of the more common charges, so being charged with this particular crime can be confusing for most people. Below is some information about this charge, its penalties, and the most common defenses used to avoid conviction.
What Is Theft of Services in Pennsylvania?
The state of Pennsylvania defines “theft of services” as the practice of using deception to obtain paid services without actually paying. For example, if you go to a restaurant and purposefully leave without paying, you are guilty of theft of services.
Some examples of situations that may lead to a theft of services charge include:
- Using a trick, deception, or device to intentionally steal a compensable service, such as altering a meter or splitting cable at your home or business.
- Permitting someone else to interfere with a public utility meter to obtain compensable services for free.
- Diverting services under your control to benefit someone else or yourself.
- Selling any educational guide or device to help others steal compensable services.
You may be charged with this crime if you steal any public or private services, including utility services, restaurant services, entertainment, transportation services, hotel accommodations, professional services, and labor.
What Type of Charge Is a Felony in Pennsylvania?
The sentence for any criminal conviction, as well as its impact on your future, will depend on the classification of the crime. Crimes in the state of Pennsylvania can be classified as summary offenses, misdemeanors, or felonies. Summary offenses are the least serious charges and include minor offenses, such as loitering. Misdemeanors are more serious than summary offenses but less serious than felonies. DUI is a common example of a misdemeanor. Felonies are the most serious charges and include more significant crimes like sex crimes and drug dealing.
Theft in Pennsylvania, including theft of services, receiving stolen property, retail theft, or any other theft offense, may fall into any of these three classifications based on the value of the goods or services stolen.
In the case of theft of services:
- If the market value of the stolen services is less than $50, the charge will be a summary offense.
- If the market value of the stolen services is between $50 and $2,000, the charge will be a misdemeanor in the first, second, or third degree.
- If the value of the stolen services is between $2,000 and $100,000, the charge will be a felony of the third degree.
- If the value of the stolen services is between $100,000 and $500,000, the charge will be a felony of the second degree.
- If the value of the stolen services is more than $500,000, the charge will be a felony of the first degree.
What Is the Sentence for Theft of Services?
The sentence for a theft of services conviction will be heavily dependent on the classification of the charge, as well as your criminal history and other factors. The maximum sentence for this charge will be as follows:
- Summary offense — The maximum fine for a summary offense in Pennsylvania is $1,500. The sentence may also include up to three months in jail.
- Third degree misdemeanor — The maximum sentence for a third degree misdemeanor is $2,500 and 12 months in prison.
- Second degree misdemeanor — The maximum sentence for a second degree misdemeanor is $5,000 and two years in prison.
- First degree misdemeanor — The maximum sentence for a first degree misdemeanor is $10,000 and five years in prison.
- Third degree felony — The maximum sentence for a third degree felony is $15,000 and seven years in prison.
- Second degree felony — The maximum sentence for a second degree felony is $25,000 and 10 years in prison.
- First degree felony — The maximum sentence for a first degree felony is $25,000 and 10 years in prison.
As with most theft offenses in Pennsylvania, you will also be required to pay restitution to the victim, as well as other fees associated with the investigation and/or court proceedings.
Common Defenses for Theft of Services
To achieve a conviction for theft of services, prosecutors must prove two primary facts:
- The defendant obtained compensable services without paying for them.
- The defendant had criminal intent, which means the defendant intended to steal the services in question.
Criminal defense attorneys usually defend their clients against this charge by attempting to disprove either of these facts. For example, if you obtained compensable services without paying for them because you forgot to pay, were unaware that payment was required, or were unaware that someone else was stealing these services, your defense will be based on your lack of criminal intent.
Another common defense involves questioning the evidence that you obtained compensable services for free. If the prosecution cannot prove that you actually obtained these services without paying, the charge won’t stick.
Your attorney will be able to tell you what defense strategy will be best in your case. If the evidence is too strong, your attorney may recommend a plea bargain or some other strategy instead.
Contact an Attorney
If you have been charged with theft of services, you need to talk to a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Please contact our office today to learn more.