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"Skipping out" on the bill can lead to criminal charges

The law is clear on the crime of fraud. If people fail to pay after getting a hotel room, a campground site or other location, getting food from a restaurant, entering an amusement park or get entertainment, food or other accommodations without paying, it is considered defrauding the establishment.

It is also illegal to obtain goods or services by misrepresenting oneself or by making false statements. Being arrested on these charges can range from a misdemeanor to a felony.

It will be a Class 1 misdemeanor if the value of that which was not paid for was worth less than $500. If it is $500 or more, it will be a Class 5 felony. A Class 1 misdemeanor can result in jail for up to one year, a fine of $2,500 or both. For a Class 5 felony, there can be one to 10 years in jail. However, the court can sentence the person to the same penalties as there are for a Class 1 misdemeanor. This is at the discretion of the jury or the judge in a case without a jury.

Committing an act like "skipping out on the bill" might be something that people do not believe is particularly serious. They are often unaware of the harsh criminal penalties they will face if they are arrested and convicted on these charges. Plea bargains could be a viable alternative, or it might have been a misunderstanding making an acquittal on the criminal charges possible with the right approach.

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Boyce, Leahy & Francescon, Lawyers
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Manassas, VA 20110

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