Theft of Services
In accordance with Tennessee law, TCA § 65-35-102, it is unlawful for a person to:
- Knowingly tap, cut, burn, break down, injure, destroy or otherwise interrupt or interfere with the current, lines, cables, poles, towers, fixtures or appliances utilized to furnish service to the general public by any telephone or telegraph company, or electric light or power company engaged in furnishing communication, light, heat or power by electricity.
- In any way injure, remove, destroy or interfere with any gas, sanitary sewer, or water fixtures or appliances.
- Obtain or attempt to obtain by use of any fraudulent scheme, device, means or method, electric, sanitary sewer, water, or gas service, with intent to avoid payment of the lawful price, charge or toll therefore or for any person to cause another to avoid such payment for such service, or for any person to assist another in avoiding payment for electric, sanitary sewer, water, or gas service, either through the making of multiple applications for service at one (1) address, or otherwise.
- Divert or use electrical power with the intent to defraud or deprive any public or private electric power supplier from receiving proper charges or payment for such electrical power.
- Connect any tube, pipe, wire or other instrument with any meter, device or other instrument used for conducting telephone, gas, electricity, sanitary sewer service, or water in such a manner as to permit the use of the telephone, gas, electricity, sanitary sewer service, or water without same passing through a meter or other instrument recording the usage for billing.
- Alter, injure or prevent the action of a meter, valve, stopcock, or other instrument used for measuring quantities of telephone, gas, electricity, sanitary sewer service, or water.
- Break, deface or cause to be broken or defaced any seal, locking device or other parts that make up a metering device for recording usage of telephone, gas, electricity, sanitary sewer service, or water or a security system for such recording device.
- Remove a metering device for measuring quantities of telephone, gas, electricity, sanitary sewer service, or water.
- Transfer from one (1) location to another a metering device for measuring utilities of telephone, gas, electricity, sanitary sewer service, or water.
- Use a metering device belonging to the utility that has not been assigned to the location and installed by the utility.
- Adjust the indicated consumption, jam the measuring device, bypass the meter or measuring device with a jumper so that it does not indicate use or registers incorrectly or otherwise obtain quantities of telephone, gas, electricity, sanitary sewer service, or water from the utility without same passing through a metering device for measuring quantities of consumption for billing.
- Fabricate or use a device to pick or otherwise tamper with the locks used to deter electric current diversion, telephone diversion, gas diversion, water diversion, sanitary sewer service diversion, meter tampering and meter thefts.
EVIDENCE OF VIOLATION
In accordance with Tennessee law, TCA § 65-35-103, any property on which it is found to have telephone, electric, gas, sanitary sewer, or water utilities tampered with in violation of § 65-35-102, and capable of receiving telephone, electricity, gas, sanitary sewer, or water service as a result of the use of any method of diversion prohibited in that section, is prima facie evidence and creates against the tenant or occupant a presumption of intent to tamper or divert in violation of the provisions of § 65-35-102.
Also, the presence upon property served by a utility of a metering device altered to improperly monitor the amount of utility service used on or by such property is presumptive evidence that the utility customer has diverted or used utility service with the intent to deprive or defraud the utility from receiving proper charges or payment for such utility service in violation of the provisions of this chapter.
Criminal Liability – Damages – Liens
In accordance with Tennessee law, TCA § 65-35-104, any person violating the provisions of § 65-35-102 is liable civilly for damages resulting from such violation, including actual, compensatory, incidental and punitive damages. The damages shall be three (3) times the utility’s estimated loss of revenue, plus reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs associated with such loss.
Regardless of any criminal charge or lack thereof, any utility may nevertheless bring a civil action in any court of appropriate jurisdiction against the owner, occupant or tenant and allege the violation of any of the acts prohibited by § 65-35-102; and upon a finding that the person has violated § 65-35-102, the court shall likewise determine the estimated loss of revenues and award judgment for sums specified.
Any utility that can properly establish the amount of utility service fraudulently taken on or by any premises occupied by the owner thereof shall the right to declare a lien for the value of such utility service against the property on which the utility service was taken.