Select your state


dine and dash laws

Most states have a specific statute (often called defrauding an innkeeper) that makes it a criminal offense to obtain food, lodging, fuel, or other accommodations at a restaurant, hotel, ski resort, campground, marina, gas station, or other establishment, with the intent not to pay for such goods and services—or to secure credit at such an establishment through fraud or other means of deceit (false pretenses).

Proof that a person refused or neglected to pay for such food, lodging, fuel, or accommodations, or gave payment that was not honored (declined credit card, bad check) is generally proof of such fraudulent intent not to pay for the goods or services.

The definitions and punishment for this criminal offense vary from state to state, but generally may be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or as a felony, and may include confinement in jail or state prison. In some states, if the amount owed was disputed and the amount offered in payment was refused, a person cannot be convicted under the statute.

Employee Paycheck Deductions

Some states have laws—usually statutes in the labor or employment code—that prohibit employers in the service industries (restaurants, bars, hotels) from deducting any amount of a check, bill, or tab owed by a customer from the employee’s pay—but other states do not have laws that prohibit such deductions.

In practice, most employers will not make such deductions unless they believe the employee was negligent or complicit in the walked-out or dine and dash tab. And if the employee’s employment is at will, the employer can generally fire the employee for a dine and dash tab.

In Texas, the offense of theft of services, which includes defrauding an innkeeper, is covered under Texas Penal Code Section 31.04. This statute makes it illegal to intentionally or knowingly secure performance of a service by deception, threat, or false token. This includes obtaining food, lodging, or other accommodations without intending to pay. If a person refuses to pay, provides a declined credit card, or a bad check, it is generally considered evidence of intent to defraud. The severity of the offense can range from a Class C misdemeanor to a felony, depending on the value of the services stolen. As for employee paycheck deductions, Texas Payday Law prohibits employers from making deductions from an employee's paycheck for items that are considered losses or shrinkage due to customer theft or dine and dash incidents, unless the employee consents in writing to such deductions or they are ordered by a court or through other legal processes. However, Texas is an at-will employment state, meaning employers can terminate employees for any legal reason, including incidents where the employee is believed to be negligent or complicit in a customer's failure to pay.

Legal articles related to this topic