Often when you think of theft you envision someone shoplifting or stealing a vehicle. Not very often does “theft” conjure thoughts of a family staying warm in their home in the dead of a Michigan winter. But, according to The Detroit News, up to 70,000 Detroit area homes and businesses are currently stealing gas and electricity from DTE Energy.
They say the majority of those residential thefts are done by families—people who simply can’t afford to pay the electric bill. While DTE lightens up on removing service over the cold months of winter, they estimate they disconnect up to 500 illegal hookups each day.
There are programs to help people who can’t afford their electricity bills but officials state that very few people know about these programs and that they are underfunded. Instead, families bypass the meters using dangerous wires and routing methods considered to be huge fire and electric shock risks.
Interestingly, however, there are many business owners also getting in on the free utilities. For many of them, it’s not a matter of not being able to pay but rather preferring not to. There are people within the community willing to hook up illegal utilities for a fee less than the average bill, making it an easy decision for some.
Although it doesn’t happen with every incident, the city can criminally charge those people accused of stealing utilities. Whether it’s electricity, gas, or even cable—stealing utilities is considered a criminal offense.
Just what kind of charges you face depend on the value of the services you are accused of stealing. If you had illegal cable hooked to your house for 1 year and the bill for the service you were receiving would have been around $100 per month, you could be accused of a felony charge.
When you are facing theft charges, whether for utility theft or shoplifting, an experienced attorney can help you decide what step to take and when.