When you run into a major financial expense at home – whether it’s your plumbing, a bug infestation or a big tree that needs to come down – you may not always have the money or credit to make immediate repairs. Businesses, too, sometimes run into a problem where they need professional services but can’t swing all the cash at once, whether they need to have someone design their website for them or help them update their electronics.
Some professionals will allow you to set up payment plans, but you need to do so with caution. If you handle the situation incorrectly, a payment agreement for someone’s professional services can turn into a theft charge.
Failure to pay can be inferred as theft by deception
Someone’s professional services have value – and that means they can be the subject of theft. While you cannot put a graphic designer’s services in your pocket and walk off with them, promising to pay for their work and then stiffing them on the bill after the work is done is essentially the same thing.
While you may think that you can ignore a professional services bill until it goes into collections, the reality is that you can be charged with theft by deception under Maryland’s laws. If the value of those services was at least $1,500, that’s a felony level charge. If you’re convicted, you could face five, 10 or even 20 years in prison (depending on the value stolen).
You may have a very valid reason for withholding payment after professional services were rendered – but if someone starts tossing around the idea that you’re guilty of theft, it’s time to explore all your defense options.