If you were to order a pizza in the US and didn't pay for it afterwards, could you be arrested?
James Chandler was arrested after allegedly ordering a pizza and cinnamon sticks and partially eating them without paying. The basis for arrest was defrauding an innkeeper.
Any person who obtains food, lodging, or other accommodations having a value of less than $1,000 at any public food service establishment, or at any transient establishment, with intent to defraud the operator thereof, commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083
(Emphasis added; this is the current text of the law, but "less than $1000" was "less than $300" at the time of the incident.)
For anyone doubting this or looking for more detail, the case number is 2016MM002854A before the Circuit Court of St. Lucie County, Florida, and not only was he arrested, but he was convicted and sentenced to 60 days in county jail.
The above example was pizza by delivery. For an example involving dine-in pizza see Crime briefs: Father's Day fight, copper theft, unpaid pizza bill a woman was arrested at Blue Line Pizza in California on suspicion of "defrauding an innkeeper" after refusing to pay the bill.
Another Florida example is Off The Beat: Price of pepperoni pizza and vodka? A trip to jail:
Brown’s bill was $30.36, consisting of three Ketel One vodka drinks ($19.50), a pepperoni pizza ($9) plus tax ($1.86).
Told by a deputy that the restaurant wanted her to settle up her tab, Brown said she brought no money
Deputies arrested Brown on charges of defrauding an innkeeper and obstruction without violence.
The above case is 19001773MMAXMX of Marion County, Florida. She entered a plea agreement, whereby she pled no-contest to the non-violently resisting in exchanged for the defrauding an innkeeper not being prosecuted, and was sentenced to time served (about 3 days in jail) and $735 in fees and fines.
Police were called to the Pizza Inn at 1441 South Pollock St. after the man allegedly filled his plate with food then walked out the door.
Police found 49-year-old Alan Miscavage, of New Jersey across the street.
Miscavage allegedly told officers he was homeless and was happy to be going to jail. He told them the jail offered free food, running water, and a place to stay until his court date.
Miscavage was charged with defrauding an innkeeper for not paying for the food, and misdemeanor larceny for leaving with the food plate valued at $10. Bond was set at $3,500. His court date was set for August 22.
A Lemoore man was arrested Sunday for allegedly defrauding a pizza delivery driver and trying to flee from police.
The Hanford [California] Police Department was called to the 900 block of West Sixth Street at 10:37 p.m. for a report of a man refusing to pay for a pizza delivered by a Pizza Hut delivery driver. Officers found Peter Delano, 59, sitting in his car eating the pizza.
So, in conclusion, if you order pizza and don't pay you could be arrested for defrauding an innkeeper.
This answer is very dependent on local and state jurisdiction, as well as the fact that the person who ordered the pizza(s) did not eat them, only declined to pay when delivered.
The monetary limit for a crime that can result in arrest is likely $100+ (there will be a minimum monetary amount that results in arrest, and depending on jurisdiction it could be much higher), so it's very unlikely that ordering one pizza and then not wanting to pay (and the pizza delivery person taking the pizza back) is going to get someone arrested.
Even if the amount of the order is over the threshold of the local criminal statutes and the pizza shop makes a report to the local police, many times that won't result in an arrest, because the police have discretion on making arrests, and the local prosecutor may not want to bother to prosecute a minor crime.
That said, ordering a pizza and not wanting to pay could result in a civil case (civil cases do not result in arrest, unless for some reason there is a court order or warrant); the pizza shop could easily sue in small claims for the cost of the wasted pizza, lost delivery time and labor, etc., especially if it's more than one pizza. See The Differences Between a Criminal Case and a Civil Case - FindLaw
But even small claims court costs time and money (in making a case, paying filing and service fees, and going to court).
It is more likely is that the pizza business will simply blacklist the address or the customer and simply refuse future orders from that address or person or credit card billing name. (This scenario is pointed out in comments to the original question).
Well, this depends on circumstances, as usual :-).
First of all, the police can generally only arrest you if they suspect that you committed a crime (or if there is a court order you violated). There are, roughly speaking, two branches of law: criminal law (which is about crimes, where courts hand out punishments), and civil (or contract) law, which is about disputes between two arbitrary parties (actual or legal persons), usually about property or money, where a court basically decides who gets what.
So the question is: Do you commit a crime by ordering and not paying. This depends on circumstances:
- First, do you even owe the money for the pizza? For example, if the pizza is not deliverd as ordered, or too late, or to the wrong address, you may not even be liable. If everything went as it should, you generally are required to pay.
- Secondly: Even if you do owe the money, simply not paying something you owe is not in itself a crime. It is a civil wrong, meaning you can be sued under contract law, but the court would not impose a punishment on you, but simply require you to pay the money (and possibly additional damages).
- However, if additional elements come into play, you might commit a crime. For example:
- If you order while never intending to pay, this may constitute fraud (because you mislead the shop into believing you would pay). Additionally, some jurisdictions have the specific crime of "defrauding an innkeeper" covering this act.
- If you threaten the shop or the delivery person to avoid paying, that might constitute intimidation or assault.
- If take the food off the delivery vehicle while the delivery person isn't looking, that might be theft.
All these legal details apart, the practical question of course is whether the police would even bother to arrest you. Police usually has some discretion about whether to arrest, even if a crime seems likely. If the monetary amount involved and the threat to public safety are fairly low, most probably police would not arrest you, even if they suspect a crime. But if you e.g. assaulted the delivery person, they probably would. So again, it depends...