Statute Of Theft Of Services In The State Of New Jersey

Interviewer: What happens if you go to a place that provides a service, and you don’t pay for it? Is that a theft?

Ben Kelsen: That actually has its own statute – statute of theft of services. It most certainly happens in one of two different situations. One of which is going to be that, you contact somebody to do a job for you, and you don’t pay them. Somebody comes to your house, say a contractor or a plumber,  and you just never pay them. The other potentiality is that you bring something in to somebody at a store to be fixed. Your bring in your iPad, you bring in your computer, and you pay by check which then bounces. Which is another problem in itself. But theft of services – that would account as theft of services. A guy comes to your house to cut the trees, comes to mow the lawn, the plumber, roofer, contractor, whatever. And at the end of the day, you don’t pay them. That would be theft of services.

The Economic Recession Has Caused an Increase in Criminal Cases for Theft of Services

Interviewer: Can people really call the police for stuff like that or do they just call the person they’re trying to work with?

Ben Kelsen: Unfortunately we’re seeing a rise , as the economy goes down and people become unfortunately more dependent on whatever income they can get. We’re seeing much more of the criminal system being used, sort of as a collection agency than we have previously. Normally that would be a civil case, and I would recommend you file a complaint in the civil court, and you go to civil court and you get a judgment or you work out a settlement or whatever. Now what’s been happening more often is people filing criminal complaints for theft of services, and depending on what the theft of services are in terms of monetary value, you could be dealing with something in the municipal court or you could be ending up with an indictable offense as opposed to a disorderly person’s offense. And people are using that as a collection agency.

In A Theft of Services Case The Judges Primarily Try To Resolve It With Neighborhood Mediation

Interviewer: Won’t the Courts say that this needs to be resolved civilly or they will take the case and work on it?

Ben Kelsen: So very often what the judges will try to do is they say, ‘listen why don’t you guys try to go see if you can settle this thing and come back in two weeks or in a month and let’s see what we can do here’. Sometimes they’ll send us for neighborhood mediation which is a program where you sit down with a volunteer mediator, try to work it out. And other times if that doesn’t work, then they will have to look forward. But the judges are not particularly happy about those types of cases.

Again it depends on what it is, if you have a guy who does this on a serial basis, then they may very well be that the judge gets annoyed at the defendant. On the other hand it may turn into a situation where, let’s say, the home owner’s saying that the plumber didn’t do a good job or they didn’t pick something the way they were supposed to, the judge may get annoyed at the complainant and say, you know, ‘I am not a collection agency. This is a criminal court, or at least a quasi-criminal court. What do you want from me? You want me to prosecute this guy? This guy doesn’t get you your money back, it means I’m going to find him guilty of a theft, possibly, and I’ll order a restitution but I’m not locking him up for it. They’re not going to lock him in jail cause he didn’t pay a 200 dollars plumber’s bill’.

Theft Of Services Cases Are Increasing Due To Economic Recession

Interviewer: Do you have a lot of these cases or is it pretty rare that that happens?

Ben Kelsen: It’s happening more and more. What we’re trying to do is to mediate these with the complainants – because most of the time these are average people who unfortunately fell onto hard times. I had a case not long ago where a guy wrote a check to pay somebody for a job they did for them on the basis of a check that he just got from one of his client’s clearing. That check then bounced; so now his check bounced. Because his check bounced, he didn’t have the funds to be able to pay the service provider. Service provider says, ‘I’m not getting involved in this and files a criminal complaint for theft of services’. And suddenly you end up in this position. It’s just the trickle-down effect of the economy taking a nose-dive.

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