Can I Be Charged With Theft?

Everybody knows that a person can be charged with theft if they take someone else’s property or shoplifting from a supermarket. But other seemingly harmless acts like failing to pay your restaurant bill, or hooking up your own cable TV,  or using an extra cable box without paying, can also be considered a theft crime.

Under modern Tennessee law most theft offenses are generally described in Tennessee Code Annotated sections 39-14-101 to 39-14-103.  The offense of “Theft” now encompasses the offenses of embezzlement, larceny, shoplifting, conversion, and receiving and/or concealing stolen property.  A theft occurs when a person knowingly obtains or exercises control over property without the owner’s consent with the intent to deprive the owner of that property.  Theft crimes are classified based on the value of the property or services allegedly stolen. Theft of property or services valued at less than $500 is a Class A Misdemeanor, while value of over $500 are charged as various Felonies, depending on the value.

Tennessee also recognizes a specific offense known as Theft of Services under Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-14-104.  Theft of services occurs when a person intentionally obtains services by deception, coercion, or any means to avoid payment.  The offense may also be charged when a person knowingly diverts services to someone not entitled to them, or “bolts” from a restaurant or hotel without paying for services rendered.

Under Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-13-139 theft of telecommunications services, such as cable TV, or use of unlawful telecommunications devices is a misdemeanor.  If more than more than five unlawful devices are used the offense can be charged as a Class D Felony, punishable by imprisonment from 2 to 12 years.

If you have been charged with theft, theft of services, or telecommunications theft in Smyrna, La Vergne or Murfreesboro your should contact a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney immediately.  There are defenses that you may not aware of.  Your freedom and future are too valuable to trust to anyone except an experienced criminal defense lawyer.


Stan Bennett