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Is It Illegal to Dine and Dash in CA?


Skipping the Bill Has Legal Repercussions

Dining and dashing is often associated with eating at restaurants and leaving without paying the bill, although the act of receiving products or services without paying can occur at hotels, campgrounds, gas stations, and other places. People reportedly dine and dash for fun, or because they can’t afford to pay the bill, waited too long for the bill to arrive, or were unhappy with their food or dining experience.

In California, it is against the law to obtain any food, fuel, services, or accommodations at the following places without paying for it and with the intent to defraud the owner. It is also illegal to obtain credit, food, fuel, services, or accommodations at the places below and remove any part of your baggage by force, menace or threats with the intent to not pay for the food or accommodations:

  • Hotel
  • Inn
  • Restaurant
  • Boardinghouse
  • Lodging house
  • Apartment house
  • Bungalow court
  • Motel
  • Marina
  • Marine facility
  • Autocamp
  • Ski area
  • Public or private campground

Dine and Dash Penalties & Possible Defenses

If the value of the credit, food, fuel, services, or accommodations is $950 or less, you will be punished by a $1,000 fine and/or up to 6 months in jail. However, if the value exceeded $950, you may go to county jail or state prison for up to 1 year. Non-criminal penalties include being prohibited from ever entering the business in which you allegedly committed an offense.

Depending on the facts of your case, our Santa Rosa property and theft crimes attorney can formulate your case strategy with an effective defense, such as:

  • Lack of intent
  • You didn’t do it
  • You didn’t receive anything (credit, food, fuel, services, or accommodations)
  • Intoxication
  • Insanity

If You Skip the Bill, You May Pay the Price

Dining and dashing is far more costly than paying the bill, as your freedom could be at stake if you get caught. You may be subject to steep fines and a lengthy jail sentence, which could best be prevented with the help of a proven Santa Rosa criminal defense attorney at the Law Offices of Evan E. Zelig, P.C.

With this in mind, we urge you to reach out to us online or by calling (707) 418-5352 if you are facing trouble with the law.