Stolen Gas, Electric, Water, Cable, Toll or Other Services

New Jersey has enacted a theft statute that addresses those situations where a victim’s loss is not in the form of money or property, but rather the benefit of their labor or professional services. When someone is victimized in this manner, a theft of services has been committed under N.J.S.A. 2C:20-8. This violation also extends to the use of false tokens, slugs or other means to obtain services by way of deception or theft. This pages is intended to provide you with a working knowledge of the ins and outs of the NJ Theft By Services Law, N.J.S.A. 2C:20-8. For further assistance or to discuss representation by one of our experienced defense lawyers, including one of our former prosecutors, call us 24/7 at 973-710-1520 for free consultation.

How Is Theft Of Services Committed?

The language of the theft of services law is drafted broadly to encompass just about any scenario wherein someone’s services are stolen. The more precise language of N.J.S.A. 2C:20-8 prohibits the purposeful use of deception or threat to obtain services that are only otherwise available through compensation. This law extends not only to deception, fraud, etc., to obtain the benefit of someone’s personal services, but also such things as electric, gas, water, cable, toll, and other services (e.g. tampering with meters, use of counterfeit slugs/tokens, etc.).

There are five (5) elements to a theft of services charge and they are: (1) the acquisition of services; (2) only available by paying compensation; (3) that the accused knew were available only for compensation; (4) that he/she obtained by using deception, threats or some other fraudulent means; and (5) the accused had the purpose to obtain the services without paying for them.

What Constitute “Services” Under This Law?

There is specific language in N.J.S.A. 2C:20-8 that discusses those services falling within the law. This specifically includes “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.”

Does An Individual Have To Act Intentionally In Order To Be Convicted?

Yes. It is not enough that the actions of the accused were reckless or negligent as a fundamental prerequisite to conviction is that the theft was purposeful. It had to be the intention of the accused to obtain the services without paying for them.

Is There A Presumption Of Deception or Theft Under Certain Circumstances?

Yes. Whenever someone absconds without paying from a service normally paid for at the time of rending, the law presumes that a 2C:20-8 violation has taken place.

What Are The Penalties For Theft Of Services?

The severity of the penalties is predicated on the amount of the theft. For $75,000 of more, it is a second degree crime. Theft of $501 to $74,999 is a third degree crime. It is a fourth degree crime for $200 to $499. Disorderly persons theft of services applies to losses of less than $200.

Penalties for Second Degree. $150,000 fine and up to ten (10) years in prison.

Penalties for Third Degree. $15,000 fine and up to five (5) years in prison.

Penalties for Fourth Degree.  $10,000 fine and up to eighteen (18) months in prison.

Penalties for Disorderly Persons Offense. $1,000 fine and up to six (6) months in the county jail.

A lawyer is available 24/7 to address your questions in more detail and to advise you as to your best course of action. Initial consultations are without charge.