Theft of services

Theft of services

Theft of services is the legal term for a crime which is committed when a person obtains valuable services — as opposed to goods — by deception, force, threat or other unlawful means, i.e., without lawfully compensating the provider of said services. It may also overlap with some types of fraud in which payment is made on credit, but under an assumed identity, and ultimately disavowed ("Identity theft").

Crimes of this sort are typically prosecuted as larceny, and may be either a misdemeanor or a felony, based upon the value of the services illegally obtained. This category encompasses a wide variety of criminal activity including, but not limited to, tampering with (or bypassing) a utility meter so that the true level of consumption is understated; leaving a hotel or restaurant or similar establishment without paying for the service; and "turnstile jumping" or other methods of evading the payment of a fare or fee when using a public transit vehicle or entering a private facility normally requiring payment (e.g., amusements). Theft of this sort should not be confused with reasonable rejection, where, for example, a customer does not pay because the services provided were not as advertised.

These statutes have also, on occasion, been applied in the realm of health care, when hospitals or other health-care providers have pressed criminal charges against indigent, uninsured patients who were unable to pay for their treatment. One such instance was reported in the October 30, 2003 edition of the "Wall Street Journal", involving two hospitals in the Champaign-Urbana, Illinois area which were engaging in this practice. This scenario has prompted intense criticism, and is a key issue in the call for a major overhaul of the health-care system in the United States.

See also

*Uttering and publishing, including use of forged passes, tickets, coupons, etc.
*Fraud, specifically to obtain services.
*Blue box, red box: theft of telephone service, usually toll charges, using a tone generator.

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