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If you were to order a pizza in the US and didn't pay for it afterwards, could you be arrested?

  • 6
    That's why the delivery guy always asks for the money before he hands over the pizza. – BlueDogRanch Oct 28 at 1:08
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    Yes, but it's doubtful it is an arrestable crime. Civil, yes; the orderer could be taken to small claims. – BlueDogRanch Oct 28 at 1:47
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    Please also consider the unfortunately common case in which the person who orders the pizza is not the person who the pizza is delivered to, and the latter does not want a pizza. This is a common harassment tactic, and ideas about how to defend from the second line of the harassment (police arrest and/or police violence) could be useful to intimidated targets. – WBT Oct 28 at 13:50
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    Speaking as a former pizza delivery driver, I will say that at the shop I worked at, you could get away with this once. After that we put you on a watch-list and if you tried it again, you'd be on our permanent ban-list. That said, in the 3 years I worked that job, this occurred only twice, and in one case it was a former employee of the same pizza place who was aware of and abusing the one-time policy. Obviously, this is anecdotal, and different shops may have different policies. – Darrel Hoffman Oct 28 at 14:32
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    Perhaps a better question is to ask if can be convicted of crime for this. It's not uncommon for people are arrested for relatively minor offenses and the DA declines to prosecute. Sometimes people are arrested for things the officer in good faith believes are crimes but in fact are not. Hopefully that happens rarely and is quickly rectified when it does happen. – James Reinstate Monica Polk Oct 29 at 1:31
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Yes.

See Florida Man's Version of Dine and Dash Involving A Pizza Delivery

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.

Also, see Selma [North Carolinia] police: Arrested man glad to go to jail:

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.

Also, see Police: Man didn't pay for pizza, tried to flee from officers:

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.

  • But these examples are not following the OP since the services were (at least partially) enjoyed. The OP specifically excluded actually eating the pizzas. – javadba Oct 30 at 5:05
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    @javadba: Where did OP exclude eating the pizza? The Q just says "order a pizza in the US and didn't pay for it afterwards" - it does not specify any details as to whether the pizza is taken, eaten, delivery refused etc... – sleske Oct 30 at 10:49
  • Without in any way condoning the Florida Man above, I do have to say cinnamon on a pizza might be worth trying - perhaps with chicken and pineapple? – davidbak Oct 30 at 13:46
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    If those things were ever on my pizza I wouldn't pay for it either. Pineapple, chicken on a pizza? That doesn't count as a pizza, I'm not sure what that monstrosity is. – paul23 Oct 31 at 2:30
25

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.

Edited 10/29/19

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).

  • 36
    "The monetary limit for a crime that can result in arrest is likely $100+" Is there a source for this? – bdb484 Oct 28 at 4:14
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    @corsiKa The pizza place has a duty to mitigate damages. If you ordered 2 pizzas everyday for a month and the pizza place sued you for 60 pizzas, the judge would award them for 4 and say "shoulda learned". – Harper - Reinstate Monica Oct 28 at 19:07
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    This looks wrong to me: a) for the unsourced claim about a fixed monetary limit (I think police and discretion allows them to take all circumstances into account), and b) because this ignores the most important point, namely that arrests can only happen for crimes, not for civil infractions (unless there is a court order, such as for contempt of court). – sleske Oct 29 at 8:32
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    I have personally seen people arrested for stealing items worth much less than a hundred dollars. So I have no idea where you got that number from. – Kat Oct 29 at 20:49
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    @JanIvan Those are thresholds for felony theft and grand larceny. I don't see what they have to do with whether a person can be arrested. – bdb484 Oct 30 at 9:17
6

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...

  • This is hugely wrong. Not paying for something is defiantly a crime. It's civil when it's like a contract gone wrong or something and you don't just defraud someone, not when you just refuse to pay. – Putvi Oct 30 at 17:55
  • @Putvi I think there is confusion. You are obligated to pay for things delivered. You are not necessarily obligated to accept delivery. In some cases, the delivery person will give you the items for free because if you declined the pizza for some legitimate reason it is unlikely they can resell it for value, but they are not obligated to give it away. But if they do, then you do not have to pay. – emory Oct 31 at 12:20
  • @Putvi: No, there is (in the jurisdictions I am aware of) generally no crime of "not paying what you owe". As I explained, "not paying" is only a crime in specific circumstances. – sleske Nov 29 at 9:11
  • @sleske I worked for the local Sheriff's dept. for 10 years and ordering something and not paying for it has been theft and successfully prosecuted that way for many years. There are literally people in jails for doing so. There is no way to dispute that. – Putvi Dec 2 at 18:25
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    @Putvi: Yes, and the comments explain why it's not a good answer. Consider citing some legal concepts, or maybe judgements or other sources. – sleske Dec 3 at 6:28
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I'm not really sure how these other people can not give a straight answer, but yes it is a crime, obviously.

There is no limit to what you steal being a crime as some have suggested here. If you steal it's a crime and you can go to jail. This should be obvious.

  • Why in the world would someone downvote this lol? – Putvi Oct 30 at 20:01
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    People downvote because writing "it's a crime, obviously" is not a very helpful answer. Could you use legal concepts and possibly cite laws to make this a legal answer? – sleske Oct 30 at 20:36
  • There's theft laws in every state. – Putvi Oct 30 at 20:37
  • @sleske other people here did not cite laws and you did not vote them down. – Putvi Oct 30 at 20:54
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    Using "obviously" in an answer is always risky. It might be obvious to you, but there's no guarantee that it's obvious to anyone else. Theft is a crime, yes, but the other answers point out that this may not be theft, depending on the circumstances. For the benefit of those for whom it's not obvious, if you believe that this is theft in all circumstances (as opposed to, say, a civil issue), please could you explain why? – Steve Melnikoff Oct 31 at 10:43

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