Under New Jersey Law, theft of services can occur in a myriad of situations, requiring only that the “service” represents something which customarily requires payment of compensation in order to be accessed or used. For example, a “service” can include labor, professional services, transportation, telephone, telecommunications, electric, water, gas, cable television or other public service, accommodation in hotels, restaurants, or elsewhere, entertainment, admission to exhibits, use of vehicles or other movable property. Essentially, you can be charged with theft of services for anything from taking a train or taxi with paying a fare to utilizing television cable service for which you are not being billed. Although some theft of services crimes, such as theft of cable service, gas, water, or electricity, are typically classified as disorderly persons offenses, the State may choose to aggregate the amounts associated with each instance of theft and attempt to charge the offense as a second, third, or fourth degree felony, depending on how long the service was obtained without charge.
If you have been charged, arrested or indicted in New Jersey for theft of services, it is advisable to seek knowledgeable legal counsel as soon as possible. At The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall, our team of former County and Municipal prosecutors and highly skilled defense attorneys have successfully defended clients charged with theft of services in court rooms across New Jersey. With over 100 years of combined experience on both sides of the New Jersey Justice System, our heralded criminal trial team includes lawyers named among the Top 100 Criminal Attorneys, Top 40 Criminal Attorneys under 40, and Best Attorneys in America. When you enlist our firm, you find more than a single lawyer, as the full force of our team of experienced legal professionals works to achieve the best possible outcome on your behalf. For a free comprehensive consultation about your case, contact our Bridgewater offices anytime at 908-722-1011. We are always pleased to provide a thorough understanding of the charges you are facing and the options that may be available to you.
Theft of Services in New Jersey: N.J.S.A. 2C:20-8
Offenses that constitute theft of services are detailed in section N.J.S.A. 2C:20-8 of the New Jersey Criminal Code, which provides:
a. A person is guilty of theft if he purposely obtains services which he knows are available only for compensation, by deception or threat, or by false token, slug, or other means, including but not limited to mechanical or electronic devices or through fraudulent statements, to avoid payment for the service.
“Services” include labor or professional service; transportation, telephone, telecommunications, electric, water, gas, cable television, or other public service; accommodation in hotels, restaurants or elsewhere; entertainment; admission to exhibitions; use of vehicles or other movable property. Where compensation for service is ordinarily paid immediately upon the rendering of such service, as in the case of hotels and restaurants, absconding without payment or offer to pay gives rise to a presumption that the service was obtained by deception as to intention to pay.
b. A person commits theft if, having control over the disposition of services of another, to which he is not entitled, he knowingly diverts such services to his own benefit or to the benefit of another not entitled thereto.
Penalties for Theft of Services in New Jersey
As mentioned above, theft of services is typically classified as a disorderly persons offense, which is similar to a misdemeanor in New Jersey. These criminal offenses are punishable by a sentence to serve up to 6 months in the county jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. If you are charged with a disorderly persons offense, your case will be adjudicated at the local municipal court associated with the municipality in which the alleged crime occurred. For instance, if you are accused of theft of services in Bridgewater, you will be required to appear in Bridgewater Municipal Court to face prosecution. However, if the State aggregates the total amount of allegedly stolen services and attempts to try you for a felony offense, your case will be transferred to the Somerset County Superior Court, where penalties are enhanced as the charges become more serious (fourth degree being the least severe of felony charges and first degree being the most).
Regardless of the degree of the theft of services charges against you, the law requires that you make restitution payments to the vendor and pay a minimum fine of $500.00 for each offense. In determining the appropriate amount of restitution, the court will consider the costs expended by the vendor, including but not limited to the repair and replacement of damaged equipment, the cost of the services unlawfully obtained, investigation expenses, and attorney fees.
Contact our Raritan NJ Theft of Services Attorneys for a Free Consultation
When your reputation, your professional life, your finances, and your relationships are threatened by criminal accusations, an aggressive defense lawyer can serve as the staunch protector of your interests. At The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall, our attorneys utilize the century’s worth of legal knowledge at their disposal to ensure that our clients obtain the most favorable resolution. To speak with a member of our criminal trial team at no cost about your case in Somerset or Hunterdon counties, or elsewhere in New Jersey, contact our offices for a free comprehensive consultation.