Filing Charges for Theft of Service: Probably a Very Bad Idea

A customer comes to your marina or shop asking you to repair his engine or boat. You get a signed work order and make all the necessary repairs. However, the customer never pays and leaves the boat in your yard. Or he pays part of the bill, you allow him to have his boat back – but he later refuses to pay the balance due. A friend suggests that you go to the local police station to file a Summons in the Municipal Court under New Jersey’s criminal statute of theft of services.

For a person to be found guilty of the offense of theft of services, it must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the customer used deception or threats to obtain the valuable services. This means that your case might be very weak if the situation can be interpreted as a dispute.

If the customer is found guilty of theft of services the judge may require him to pay a fine which goes to the State (which does not help your bottom line) and might impose a jail sentence (if the value is high enough). In some cases, the judge might order restitution as well.

Filing Charges for Theft of Services.pdf