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What happens if you dine and dash because you can’t pay the bill?

Jan 6, 2022 | Theft

You stopped at a restaurant and enjoyed a meal, only to realize you couldn’t pay the bill because you left your wallet at home. Or, maybe you had a very unpleasant server who was inattentive, rude or unprofessional.

Although you did receive the food and service, you don’t want to pay or you simply cannot pay. Could you face criminal charges if you “dine and dash,” which is the practice of leaving the restaurant without paying the bill?

Leaving an unpaid tab is a form of theft

Anytime a customer deprives a business of the full value of a product or service, they could face criminal charges for theft. You might assume that such charges would be minor, but in some cases, leaving a restaurant without paying could constitute a felony. 

In Texas, it will be the value of the meal that determines what penalties you face. As long as the tab for the restaurant is less than $2,500, skipping out on the bill will lead to misdemeanor theft charges if you get caught. However, if you go to the most expensive restaurant you can find and rack up a $2,500 bill that you try to avoid, the charges that you face could potentially be a felony

There are possible defenses to allegations of dining and dashing. For example, maybe the restaurant reported you and you got arrested before you could make it back to pay the bill after you found your wallet. Perhaps you went out with a friend and thought they had paid the bill. 

Understanding what could lead to theft charges in Texas can help you make better choices when out in public or when under arrest.