Theft of Services

N.J.S.A. 2C:20-8

NJ Theft of Services Law

The New Jersey Theft of Services Law is contained at N.J.S.A. 2C:20-8 and contains a general provision at subsections (a) and (b), and specific provision to address particular types of theft of services. The general provisions provide as follows:

N.J.S.A. 2C:20-8. Theft of services

a. A person is guilty of theft if he purposely obtains services which he knows are available only for compensation, by deception or threat, or by false token, slug, or other means, including but not limited to mechanical or electronic devices or through fraudulent statements, to avoid payment for the service. “Services” include labor or professional service; transportation, telephone, telecommunications, electric, water, gas, cable television, or other public service; accommodation in hotels, restaurants or elsewhere; entertainment; admission to exhibitions; use of vehicles or other movable property. Where compensation for service is ordinarily paid immediately upon the rendering of such service, as in the case of hotels and restaurants, absconding without payment or offer to pay gives rise to a presumption that the service was obtained by deception as to intention to pay.

b. A person commits theft if, having control over the disposition of services of another, to which he is not entitled, he knowingly diverts such services to his own benefit or to the benefit of another not entitled thereto.

Theft of Utility Service in NJ: Electric, Gas or Water Service

N.J.S.A. 2C:20-8(c) and N.J.S.A. 2C:20-8(d) addresses theft of services involving utilities including electric, gas and water service. These provisions of NJ Law make it a crime to tamper or disconnect a meter, connection, conduit, pipe, wire or to utilize a device for the purpose of obtaining electricity, gas or water service. It is important to comment that it is not necessary that the conduct result in the accused obtaining the service but only that the engaged in the conduct. While a conviction for this charge is a disorderly persons offense, the offense is a continuing one so long as the conduct persists. Accordingly, the state may aggregate the theft amounts and attempt to charge the offense at the Fourth Degree, Third Degree or evenSecond Degree level depending on how long the service was obtained without charge.

The elements of utility theft which must be proved in New Jersey are: (1) the accused tampered with the utility service; (2) the tampering was intended to manipulate or avoid the recording of the utility service; (3) the tampering was without permission; and (4) the accused tampered with the intention of defrauding. Our attorneys will make certain that the prosecutor proves every element of the offense and that all defense are asserted.

Theft of Cable Service in New Jersey

N.J.S.A. 2C:20-8(e), N.J.S.A. 2C:20-8(f) and N.J.S.A. 2C:20-8(g), prohibit unauthorized cable service and the manufacturing, sale or installation of equipment or devices intended to facilitate unauthorized cable service. It should be reiterated that while this is a disorderly persons offense, the unauthorized service amounts may be aggregated to increase the offense to a Fourth Degree, Third Degree or Second Degree Offense. The element of theft of cable service are: (1) an intention of the accused to obtain cable service without payment; (2) tampering or utilization of devices to obtain service without charge; and (3) use of the cable company’s wire to access service.

Theft of Services – Telephone or Telecommunications Service

N.J.S.A. 2C:20-8(h), N.J.S.A. 2C:20-8(i) and N.J.S.A. 2C:20-8(j), prohibit unauthorized telephone and telecommunication service and the manufacturing, sale or installation of devices to obtain unauthorized telephone service. Theft of telephone or telecommunications service is aThird Degree crime in NJ but, again, loss amounts may be aggregated to support a Second Degree charge. A knowledgeable lawyer can fight aggregation on various grounds.

If you have been charged with theft of services,  you can only make a well-informed decision about how to proceed after discussing your case with an attorney with the appropriate experience. If you would like to speak with me, call 1-732-845-3203 or e-mail Ray at to set up a consultation.

I represent clients who have received a summons or been arrested on a wide variety of traffic and criminal offenses, defending them throughout New Jersey.

The Law Offices of Raymond A. Raya, Esq.

Monmouth County Lawyer

Traffic · DUI/DWI · Criminal Defense · Municipal