29 Jun 20

NY Penal Law § 165.15: Theft of Services

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Last Updated on: 5th August 2023, 01:32 am

When we think of theft, the majority of us think about tangible property getting stolen, such as money, jewelry, a television or a car. That said, a common theft crime involves not stealing merchandise, a vehicle or money, but theft of services such as utility services, a cab ride or restaurant services. Under New York Penal Law § 165.15, you could get prosecuted for the crime of theft of services if you:


  1. Obtain a service that you pay for using a credit or debit card you know to be stolen,
  2. Obtain services from a hotel or restaurant and intentionally neglect to pay the bill,
  3. Obtain a ride on a railroad, subway, bus, air, taxi, or any other public transportation service without paying for it by stealth, deceit, or mechanical tampering,
  4. Obtain any telecommunication or utility service by tampering, the use of a decoder, misrepresentation, fraud, or utilizing a cancelled or revoked access device,
  5. Obtain unpaid admission to a theater or concert hall by use of mechanical device, or
  6. Access computer services without paying for them.


For Example

Amber and Joey enjoy a meal at a high end restaurant. The bill at the end of their lovely meal is over $150. After the server placed the check on their table, Joey opened it up and put only a $10 bill inside the folder. Amber and Joey then casually get up from the table and stroll out of the restaurant. Both Amber and Joey could be under prosecution for theft of services, because they left the restaurant after having only pretended to pay the full amount of the check.


Offenses that are Related

Criminal tampering in the third degree: New York Penal Law § 145.14

Criminal tampering in the second degree: New York Penal Law § 145.15

Criminal tampering in the first degree: New York Penal Law § 145.20


Possible Defenses

In order to get convicted of theft services, your neglect to pay for the services would have to be intentional. If, for example, you walk out of a restaurant without paying your check,  but you believed that your dinner companion was going to pay it and they didn’t, you would have a solid defense against any charge of theft of services that the restaurant may want to bring against you.


The Sentence

Depending upon the type of theft of services that you committed, the offense could either be considered a violation, a Class A misdemeanor or a Class E felony.


In the event that you are convicted of theft of services as a violation, your sentence may include a jail term of up to 15 days on top of a fine. If, on the other hand, you are convicted of theft of services as a Class A misdemeanor, your sentence could include a jail sentence of as much as 1 year on top of the fine. Finally, if you were to be convicted of theft of services as a Class E felony, your sentence could include a prison sentence of up to 4 years and the payment of a  fine.