Theft of Services Law and Legal Definition

Theft of service is defined by state laws, which vary by state, but typically define the crime as knowingly securing the performance of a service by deception or threat, diverting another's services to the actor's own benefit, or holding personal property beyond the expiration of rental period without consent of the owner. Intent to avoid payment may be presumed under certain circumstances, such as failure to pay for an applicable rental charge within 10 days after receiving written notice demanding payment.

Such laws generally classify the crime as a misdemeanor or felony according to the value of the services stolen. Specific amounts vary by state. Local laws should be consulted for specific requirements in your area. The following is an example of a state statute dealing with theft of services:

"(a) A person commits theft of services if

  1. the person obtains services, known by that person to be available only for compensation, by deception, force, threat, or other means to avoid payment for the services;
  2. having control over the disposition of services of others to which the person is not entitled, the person knowingly diverts those services to the person's own benefit or to the benefit of another not entitled to them; or
  3. the person obtains the use of computer time, a computer system, a computer program, a computer network, or any part of a computer system or network, with reckless disregard that the use by that person is unauthorized.

(b) Absconding without paying for hotel, restaurant, or other services for which compensation is customarily paid immediately upon the receiving of them is prima facie evidence that the services were obtained by deception.

(c) A person may not be prosecuted under this section for theft of cable, microwave, subscription, or pay television or other telecommunications service if the service was obtained through the use of a device designed and used to intercept electromagnetic signals directly from a satellite, including a device commonly referred to as a home earth station."