Partial Payments No Longer Defeat A "Theft of Service" Charge

If someone owes you money for board, training, or veterinary services, you may now be able to call your district or county attorney and have the debtor criminally charged with “theft of service”, even if the debtor has made partial payments to you. Note: this probably won’t work if you agreed to accept partial payments or agreed to a payment plan.

On May 27, 2011, Governor Perry signed S.B. No. 1024 into law. This bill revises Section 31.04 of the Texas Penal Code, eliminating a loophole that previously existed for a criminal theft of service charge.  Under prior law, a party obtaining services from another under a promise to pay could avoid a criminal charge of theft of service so long as the party was making minimal payments. 

Beginning on September 1, 2011, when the new law takes effect, a person can be charged with theft of service if full payment is not received by the service provider after the debtor receives notice demanding payment.

This new law also applies to wages a horse operation might pay to its employees. A theft of wages can now be found even if partial wages are paid. See this post by Russell Cawyer for more information on how this law affects employers for failure to pay wages in full.

Things to know about “theft of service” charges in Texas: 

  • You can be arrested for theft of service and you can go to jail if you are convicted. 
  • Theft of a service greater than $1,500 is a felony in Texas.

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