Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Theft of services
Theft of services is the legal term for a crime which is committed when a person obtains services — as opposed to goods — without lawfully compensating the provider of said services.
Crimes of this sort are typically prosecuted as larceny, and may be either a misdemeanor or a felony, based upon the value of the services illegally obtained. Specific examples of statutes covering these matters include Section 165.15 of the New York State Penal Law and Section 502 of the California Penal Code (in the latter state the main section dealing with theft, Section 484, may be applicable instead depending on the precise circumstances of the case).
This category encompasses a wide variety of criminal activity — including, but not limited to, tampering with an electric or gas meter so that the true level of consumption is understated; leaving a restaurant or similar establishment without paying for the meal; and "turnstile jumping" or other methods of evading the payment of a fare when using a public transit vehicle.
These statutes have also, on occasion, been applied in the realm of health care, when hospitals or other health-care providers have pressed criminal charges against indigent, uninsured patients who were unable to pay for their treatment. One such instance was reported in the October 30, 2003 edition of the Wall Street Journal, involving two hospitals in the Champaign-Urbana, Illinois area which were engaging in this practice. This scenario has prompted intense criticism, and is a key issue in the call by many liberals for a major overhaul of the health-care system in the United States.
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