A Colts Neck man was stopped near the Goethals Bridge by Port Authority Police for driving through an EZ Pass lane without paying. It was discovered that the man had a revoked EZ Pass account and owes more than $78,000 in unpaid tolls and fees. He was arrested, charged with theft and obstruction of administration of law or other governmental function. His truck was also impounded.
Failure to Pay Tolls Amounts to a Theft of Service Criminal Charge
There are several forms of theft under New Jersey law. Among them, Theft of Services applies to situations when a person evades paying tolls.
N.J.S.A. 2C:20-8 Theft of Services
a. A person is guilty of theft if he purposely obtains services which he knows are available only for compensation, by deception or threat, or by false token, slug, or other means, including but not limited to mechanical or electronic devices or through fraudulent statements, to avoid payment for the service. “Services” include labor or professional service; transportation, telephone, telecommunications, electric, water, gas, cable television, or other public service; accommodation in hotels, restaurants or elsewhere; entertainment; admission to exhibitions; use of vehicles or other movable property. Where compensation for service is ordinarily paid immediately upon the rendering of such service, as in the case of hotels and restaurants, absconding without payment or offer to pay gives rise to a presumption that the service was obtained by deception as to intention to pay.
Courts can impose a minimum fine of $500 for each offense of failing to pay a toll in addition to making restitution.
N.J.S.A. 2C:20-8 k. In addition to any other disposition authorized by law, and notwithstanding the provisions of N.J.S.2C:43-3, every person who violates this section shall be sentenced to make restitution to the vendor and to pay a minimum fine of $500.00 for each offense. In determining the amount of restitution, the court shall consider the costs expended by the vendor, including but not limited to the repair and replacement of damaged equipment, the cost of the services unlawfully obtained, investigation expenses, and attorney fees.
Theft is a second degree crime with a fine of up to $150,000 if the amount involved is $75,000 or more, and carries the potential for 5-10 years in prison. It is a third degree crime if the amount is more than $500 and less than $75,000. This carries a fine of up to $15,000 and the potential of 3-5 years in prison.
2C:29-1: Obstructing administration of law or other governmental function
The man who failed to pay EZ Pass tolls was also charged with obstructing administration of law or other governmental function. He was accused of purposely evading paying the EZ Pass tolls on numerous occasions and using the EZ Pass lane when his accounts had been revoked. Under New Jersey law this is a disorderly persons offense carrying a fine of up to $500 for each offense, restitution, or both and up to 30 days in jail.
Repeatedly failing to pay EZ Pass tolls can result in multiple criminal charges, larges fines, and imprisonment. Next time you receive that notice in the mail for failure to pay an EZ Pass toll on the Garden State Parkway or NJ Turnpike make sure you pay it otherwise you could be facing the possibility of stringent penalties.
Monmouth County Criminal Defense Attorneys
If you are facing theft charge, it's important to speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Call (732) 709-7757 to speak with an attorney. The criminal defense attorneys of Villani & DeLuca are here to help!