Service Theft & Larceny Crime: New York Penal Law 165.15

Whenever you take something that is not yours and you do so intentionally with the goal of depriving that person of certain property or compensation for their services, you have committed a crime. In New York City or anywhere in the State of New York, if you steal property valued at $1,000.00 or less the crime is either Petit Larceny (NY PL 155.25) or Fifth Degree Criminal Possession of Stolen Property (NY PL 165.40). However, an equally serious crime –whether you were cuffed, printed and given a Desk Appearance Ticket or hauled downtown to Central Booking – is Theft of Services (NY PL 165.15). A misdemeanor punishable by as much as one year in jail, New York Penal Law 165.15 is an extremely problematic arrest and criminal charge even though the underlying allegations may seem far from serious.

Understanding Service Theft – Failure to Pay Your Cab Fare or Restaurant Check

One of the two most common ways Theft of Services is encountered is when a person is taking a yellow cab home after a night gallivanting throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens or another NYC borough. Sometimes there is a dispute on the fare or the route taken by the cab driver and other times a passenger honestly misplaced a credit card, wallet or even their cash. When all is said and done, despite no real criminal activity, a cab driver locks the doors, calls the police and waits for their arrival or drives off to the nearest precinct. Despite your assertions that you either had the means to pay or you did nothing wrong, the police arrest you with little regard to your legitimate and sincere claims and defenses.

When arrested for this “version” of Theft of Services, prosecutors will ultimately charge you with violating New York Penal Law 165.15(3) which states that you are guilty of Theft of Services if you intentionally refuse to pay for transportation. Like all “A” misdemeanors, the potential sentence is up to one year in jail.

Similarly, if you do not pay the diner or restaurant where you just ate, you will likely face the same crime. Here, the subsection may be different (New York Penal Law 165.15(2)), but the allegation is really the same. If you intentionally refuse to pay for restaurant services or avoid payment of the same, you would be guilty of this offense. Just like the scenario above, there may be very real defenses, briefly addressed below, that you must vet with your own criminal lawyer.

Understanding Theft of Services – Entering the Subway without Paying

The New York Penal Law does not differentiate between the person who is using a senior or student MetoCard to enter the subway without permission or the person who takes it upon him or herself to hop a turnstile. In the eyes of the New York City Police Department and local District Attorneys in New York City, the crime of NY PL 165.15 has been committed. Although the same general crime as the other subsections, New York Penal Law 165.15(3) arrests involving the subway system are often “easier” to mitigate, but much more difficult to factually challenge, than crimes involving restaurants and cab fares.

When Service Theft Becomes Violent: Additional Crimes

For the sake of this scenario, let’s assume you not only allegedly failed to pay your cab driver or the restaurant where you just ate, but matters got heated. After you are confronted, the situation becomes physical. Maybe you slap, strike or punch the cab driver or waiter. Maybe you didn’t hit anyone but you are accused nonetheless. Even if you didn’t strike another person, you are accused of kicking a car door, slamming a side mirror or damaging some property. Now, not only will you face an arrest for NY PL 165.15, do not be surprised if you are also charged with Third Degree Assault (NY PL 120.00) and or Criminal Mischief in the Fourth Degree (NY PL 145.00). Also “A” misdemeanors, the crimes will certainly magnify your case in the eyes of the prosecution. Whether a distortion of the truth or not, its easy to see how what was a mere misunderstanding is now a crime facing greater scrutiny.

Defenses to Theft of Services

Although the scenarios for a NY PL 165.15 arrest (Desk Appearance Ticket or not) may vary, the defenses often follow the same or similar paths with the goal of obtaining some form of a dismissal such as an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal or “ACD.” By no means is an accused guaranteed such a result (especially if there is other violent criminal conduct), but fighting for something non-criminal can make all the difference to your future and career.

For example, if you are accused of not paying your cab fare, did you offer to stop at a bank to get cash? Did you misplace your wallet and not realize it? Was the credit card reader not working? Was there a dispute over the route? In short, challenging the allegations or how it came to be that you were accused of this crime may also be your best defense. If, on the other hand, you clearly had cash or a working credit card and you just refused to pay the cab driver or waiter because you were intoxicated (and you don’t honestly even recall what happened), the route may be more of a mitigation approach as opposed to one based on challenging facts or evidence.

Other Crotty Saland PC Theft of Services Resources

When all is said and done, Theft of Services is no less severe than a misdemeanor Assault, Petit Larceny or Criminal Mischief case. Arguably, if you work in the financial sector, have any association with a bank, hedge fund, FINRA or FDIC, or you are not a citizen, Theft of Services can be one of the most serious misdemeanor crimes. Having said that, with skilled counsel and a strong advocate, Theft of Services arrests may be more a function of a misunderstanding or rush to judgment by the police or an unfortunate act on your part which in no way is characteristic of the person you truly are. Can you get a dismissal? Will this arrest impact your future, career or legal status? What is the next step? Answer these questions sooner rather than later to put yourself on the right path to avoid the stain of a permanent criminal record.

From Manhattan to Brooklyn and Queens to Westchester County, Crotty Saland PC’s lawyers are prepared, skilled and compassionate advocates. Call us at 212.312.7129 or contact us online to speak with us about your Theft of Services arrest today.