In Texas, you can be charged with theft of service if, with the intent to avoid payment, you obtain a service by means of threats or deception.  Also, you can be charged with theft of service if you divert services to which you aren’t entitled to your own benefit (e.g., if it’s alleged that you are stealing cable services, or using someone else’s electricity without their consent).  Likewise, you can be charged with theft of service if you rent something, and keep it beyond the agreed rental period. 

Finally, theft of service charges can arise if you agree to make payment in exchange for a service, then refuse to pay for the service once it’s rendered. The seriousness of any theft of service charge is determined by the alleged value of the service rendered.  Theft of service can be a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by fine only up to $500, if it’s alleged that the value of the service is less than $20.  However, as with a murder charge, theft of service can be as serious as a first degree felony, punishable by 5 to 99 years, or life in prison, if the alleged value of the service rendered is $200,000 dollars or more.

If you’ve been arrested or charged with theft of service, you need serious legal help.  You should call the criminal defense lawyers at Berlof & Newton, P.C.  Our attorneys each have over 15 years of experience in the practice of criminal defense law.  Free consultation.  Call us today at 214.827.2800, or contact one of our lawyers directly by using the “Get Legal Help Now!” form in the left margin of this web page.  Se habla español. Texas Penal Code Section 31.04. 

THEFT OF SERVICE.

(a)  A person commits theft of service if, with intent to avoid payment for service that the actor knows is provided only for compensation:

   (1)  the actor intentionally or knowingly secures performance of the service by deception, threat, or false token;

   (2)  having control over the disposition of services of another to which the actor is not entitled, the actor intentionally or knowingly diverts the other’s services to the actor’s own benefit or to the benefit of another not entitled to the services;

   (3)  having control of personal property under a written rental agreement, the actor holds the property beyond the expiration of the rental period without the effective consent of the owner of the property, thereby depriving the owner of the property of its use in further rentals; or

   (4)  the actor intentionally or knowingly secures the performance of the service by agreeing to provide compensation and, after the service is rendered, fails to make full payment after receiving notice demanding payment.

(b)  For purposes of this section, intent to avoid payment is presumed if:

(1)  the actor absconded without paying for the service or expressly refused to pay for the service in circumstances where payment is ordinarily made immediately upon rendering of the service, as in hotels, campgrounds, recreational vehicle parks, restaurants, and comparable establishments;

(2)  the actor failed to make payment under a service agreement within 10 days after receiving notice demanding payment;

(3)  the actor returns property held under a rental agreement after the expiration of the rental agreement and fails to pay the applicable rental charge for the property within 10 days after the date on which the actor received notice demanding payment; or

(4)  the actor failed to return the property held under a rental agreement:

(A)  within five days after receiving notice demanding return, if the property is valued at less than $1,500; or

(B)  within three days after receiving notice demanding return, if the property is valued at $1,500 or more.

(c)  For purposes of Subsections (a)(4), (b)(2), and (b)(4), notice shall be notice in writing, sent by registered or certified mail with return receipt requested or by telegram with report of delivery requested, and addressed to the actor at his address shown on the rental agreement or service agreement.

(d)  If written notice is given in accordance with Subsection (c), it is presumed that the notice was received no later than five days after it was sent. (d-1)  For purposes of Subsection (a)(4): (1)  if the compensation is or was to be paid on a periodic basis, the intent to avoid payment for a service may be formed at any time during or before a pay period; and (2)  the partial payment of wages alone is not sufficient evidence to negate the actor’s intent to avoid payment for a service.

(e)  An offense under this section is: (1)  a Class C misdemeanor if the value of the service stolen is less than $20; (2)  a Class B misdemeanor if the value of the service stolen is $20 or more but less than $500; (3)  a Class A misdemeanor if the value of the service stolen is $500 or more but less than $1,500; (4)  a state jail felony if the value of the service stolen is $1,500 or more but less than $20,000; (5)  a felony of the third degree if the value of the service stolen is $20,000 or more but less than $100,000; (6)  a felony of the second degree if the value of the service stolen is $100,000 or more but less than $200,000; or (7)  a felony of the first degree if the value of the service stolen is $200,000 or more.

(f)  Notwithstanding any other provision of this code, any police or other report of stolen vehicles by a political subdivision of this state shall include on the report any rental vehicles whose renters have been shown to such reporting agency to be in violation of Subsection (b)(2) and shall indicate that the renting agency has complied with the notice requirements demanding return as provided in this section.

(g)  It is a defense to prosecution under this section that: (1)  the defendant secured the performance of the service by giving a post-dated check or similar sight order to the person performing the service; and (2)  the person performing the service or any other person presented the check or sight order for payment before the date on the check or sight order. Acts 1973, 63rd Leg., p. 883, ch. 399, Sec. 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1974.

Amended by Acts 1977, 65th Leg., p. 1138, ch. 429, Sec. 1, eff. Aug. 29, 1977; Acts 1983, 68th Leg., p. 2920, ch. 497, Sec. 4, eff. Sept. 1, 1983; Acts 1991, 72nd Leg., ch. 565, Sec. 15, eff. Sept. 1, 1991; Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 900, Sec. 1.01, eff. Sept. 1, 1994; Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 479, Sec. 1, eff. Aug. 28, 1995; Acts 1999, 76th Leg., ch. 843, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1999; Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1245, Sec. 1, 2, eff. Sept. 1, 2001; Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 419, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 2003. Amended by:

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