Theft of Services

Theft of Services in New Jersey

Criminal Lawyer & Former Prosecutor

The attorneys at our New Jersey law firm, the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall, defend individuals charged with theft of services. Unfortunately, what someone thought was an opportunity to take advantage of a situation, can turn into a criminal arrest, indictment or charge. A prime example of such a scenario is the unauthorized acquisition of television cable service. Every lawyer at our firm has experience handling criminal cases in NJ and our lead attorney, Jonathan F. Marshall, is a former prosecutor in the state. If you have been charged, arrested or indicted in New Jersey for theft of service, please do not hesitate to contact our law office. Our criminal lawyers handle these cases statewide including Atlantic County, Bergan County, Essex County, Hudson County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Morris County, Ocean County, Union County, and Somerset County. Initial consultations with our office are always without charge and an attorney is available to speak to you immediately. The following information is provided for your assistance in understanding the theft of service law in NJ.

NJ Theft of Services Law

The New Jersey theft of services law is contained at N.J.S.A. 2C:20-8 and contains a general provision at subsections (a) and (b), and specific provision to address particular types of theft of services. The general provisions provide as follows:

2C:20-8. Theft of services

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.

Explanation of General Provision

(a) What services are covered? “Services” for purposes of the statute including 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. It should be noted that “services” must be those which customarily require payment of compensation.

(b) Intent Required: to be found guilty of these theft crimes, the accused must have the purpose of obtaining the services without making the appropriate payment. Mere acceptance of services is not enough—there must be some act or conduct which is deceptive or otherwise intended to illegitimately abscond the services.

(c) Material Elements: (i) the accused obtained services; (ii) the services are typically only available for compensation; (iii) the accused was aware that the services were only available for compensation; (iv) the services were obtained by deception, threats or some other fraudulent means; and (v) the accused intended to engage in said conduct and obtain the services without paying.

(d) Embezzlement of Services: the statute criminalizes diversion of services to which an individual is not entitled including paying for services which are diverted to an unauthorized third party.

Theft of Utility Service in NJ: Electric, Gas or Water Service

N.J.S.A. 2C:20-8(c) and N.J.S.A. 2C:20-8(d) addresses theft of services involving utilities including electric, gas and water service. These provisions of NJ law make it a crime to tamper or disconnect a meter, connection, conduit, pipe, wire or to utilize a device for the purpose of obtaining electricity, gas or water service. It is important to comment that it is not necessary that the conduct result in the accused obtaining the service but only that he or she engaged in the conduct. While a conviction for this charge is a disorderly persons offense, the offense is a continuing one so long as the conduct persists. Accordingly, the state may aggregate the theft amounts and attempt to charge the offense at the fourth-degree, third-degree or even second-egree level depending on how long the service was obtained without charge.

The elements of utility theft which must be proved in New Jersey are: (1) the accused tampered with the utility service; (2) the tampering was intended to manipulate or avoid the recording of the utility service; (3) the tampering was without permission; and (4) the accused tampered with the intention of defrauding. Our attorneys will make certain that the prosecutor proves every element of the offense and that all defenses are asserted.

Theft of Cable Service in New Jersey

N.J.S.A. 2C:20-8(e), N.J.S.A. 2C:20-8(f) and N.J.S.A. 2C:20-8(g), prohibit unauthorized cable service and the manufacturing, sale or installation of equipment or devices intended to facilitate unauthorized cable service. It should be reiterated that while this is a disorderly persons offense, the unauthorized service amounts may be aggregated to increase the offense to a fourth-degree, third-degree or second-degree offense. The element of theft of cable service are: (1) an intention of the accused to obtain cable service without payment; (2) tampering or utilization of devices to obtain service without charge; and (3) use of the cable company’s wire to access service.

Theft of Services – Telephone or Telecommunications Service

N.J.S.A. 2C:20-8(h), N.J.S.A. 2C:20-8(i) and N.J.S.A. 2C:20-8(j), prohibit unauthorized telephone and telecommunication service and the manufacturing, sale or installation of devices to obtain unauthorized telephone service. Theft of telephone or telecommunications service is a third-degree crime in NJ but, again, loss amounts may be aggregated to support a second-degree charge. A knowledgeable lawyer can fight aggregation on various grounds.

If you or a loved one has been charged with theft of services in New Jersey including, but not limited to, theft of gas, water, electricity, cable service or telephone service, the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can assist you. Our criminal defense lawyers represent individuals charged with this offense throughout NJ in Atlantic County, Essex County, Ocean County, Hudson County, Monmouth County, Morris County, Middlesex County, Union County, Bergan County, and Somerset County. A lawyer is available to answer your questions and insure that you do not make a misstep on your own. Please do not hesitate to contact us as initial consultations with an attorney are free of charge.