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When Can Retail Theft Charges Involve the Theft of Services?

 Posted on October 31, 2023 in Criminal Defense

Untitled---2023-10-31T102537.918.jpgMost people are familiar with the crime of retail theft, which is also known as shoplifting. Retail theft charges typically involve stealing merchandise or goods from a store. However, in some cases, retail theft charges can also include the theft of services. The theft of services refers to situations where a person obtains services without paying for them or intentionally deceives a service provider to avoid payment. These actions can be a serious criminal offense, and depending on the value of the services that were not paid for, a person may face misdemeanor or felony charges. Those who have been accused of theft of services can protect their rights by securing representation from an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Understanding Retail Theft

Retail theft or shoplifting is a criminal offense that may apply if a person is accused of taking merchandise from a store or retail establishment without paying the full price. Criminal charges may apply if a person is accused of engaging in actions such as concealing merchandise, altering price tags, or switching packaging to pay less than the actual value of the item.

In most cases, retail theft involves physical products like clothing, electronics, or groceries. However, there are instances where retail theft charges extend beyond tangible goods and encompass services provided by businesses.

Theft of Services

Theft of services occurs when a person obtains and uses a service without intending to pay for it. Accusations of this offense may occur in a variety of situations, including:

  • Dine-and-dash: Leaving a restaurant without paying for the meal consumed.

  • Fare evasion: Riding public transportation without purchasing a ticket or fare card.

  • Skip tracing: Hiring professional services (such as private investigators) and refusing to pay after receiving their assistance.

  • Bypassing utility meters: Tampering with meters to avoid paying for electricity, water, gas bills, etc.

Retail Theft Charges Involving Services

Under Wisconsin law, retail theft statutes are broad enough to cover both tangible goods and intangible services. If a person is accused of intentionally obtaining services without paying the full price for them, they can be charged with retail theft.

If someone receives a service from a business and then refuses to pay or uses deceptive tactics to avoid payment, they may face retail theft charges. Theft of services cases are typically treated similarly to traditional shoplifting cases. The severity of the charge depends on factors such as the value of the stolen service and any prior criminal history.

Potential Penalties

If convicted of retail theft involving the theft of services, a person may face multiple types of penalties:

  • Jail time: For the theft of services valued at less than $500, a person may be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, and they could be sentenced to up to nine months in jail. Theft of more than $500 worth of services may result in felony charges, and a conviction may result in a sentence of multiple years in jail. The potential sentence will increase for theft of higher amounts.

  • Fines: Misdemeanor or felony charges may carry fines of $10,000 or more.

  • Restitution: The courts may order a person to reimburse a business or service provider for their losses. In some cases, a business or service provider may also choose to pursue a civil lawsuit to recover compensation for the losses suffered because of the theft of services, as well as “exemplary damages” that may be as much as three times the amount of their actual financial losses.

Contact Our Walworth County Theft of Services Lawyer

If you are facing retail theft charges related to either merchandise or services in Wisconsin, it is crucial to seek legal representation immediately. The experienced Waukesha County retail theft defense attorney at Bucher Law Group, LLC can provide you with expert guidance throughout your case. We offer free consultations where we will review your situation and discuss potential defense strategies. Contact us today at 262-303-4916 to schedule your consultation.

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