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Penalty For Stealing Electricity In Texas

By Payal B

If you’ve got a high electricity bill, someone could be stealing from you. Or, you might just have a bad plan. If someone is stealing from you, what’s the penalty for stealing electricity in Texas?

If you need a better rate, do you know where to find one?

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This short guide tells you everything you need to know about stolen electricity—from how to tell if electricity is being stolen to what the penalty is for stealing electricity in Texas.

Is Stealing Electricity A Crime?

Stealing electricity may not seem like a big deal. With the cost of electricity, it may be easy to argue it is more like borrowing.

A seemingly victimless crime, after all the electricity companies make millions of dollars.

So what does it matter if someone takes a little power without paying for it?

Taking anything without paying for it is considered stealing.

So yes, stealing electricity is a crime.

It is also not a victimless crime-the people having their electricity stolen are the ones footing the bill.

BC Hydro-s smart metering and infrastructure business case states: “Legitimate customers bear the cost of electricity theft which amounts to approximately $100 million a year in energy cost.”

Are high electricity rates making you consider stealing electricity?

You don’t have to steal power to save money—Power Wizard can help.

Our service uses proprietary data science and technology to analyze every aspect of the way you use electricity and locates the most affordable plans to match your needs.

Penalty for stealing electricity in Texas

The Law Of Stealing Electricity

The law is often confusing and hard to understand. There are so many penal codes and legal jargon.

What is legal and what is illegal?

A penal code or criminal code contains offenses that are recognized and considered crimes by the local, state, or the federal legal system.

Texas Penal Code § 31.04 is Theft of Service which is described as receiving a service that is intended for compensation but did not pay for the service.

When someone takes electricity without paying for it in Texas this is considered a theft of service under the above-mentioned penal code.

Keep reading to learn how to detect if your electricity is being stolen.

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How Do People Steal Electricity?

Electricity is the third most stolen item in the United States, after credit card data and automobiles.

Here are a few ways to tell if electricity is being stolen:

  • Look for stray ordinary electric cords-As simple as it sounds some people may just plug an extension cord into your outdoor outlet and run it to their home.
  • Keep an eye on your electric bill-Electric bills fluctuate based on current market rates, the rate of your current plan, and the weather. But if you notice huge spikes in your bill it might indicate there is an issue.
  • Check your meter-There are several ways electric meters can be tampered with so just keep an eye on your meter and the utility pole. Look for wires, cords, tags removed or numbers changed.
  • Unpaid electricity bills-Electricity fraud is an example of identity theft when someone sets up an electricity account under your name. This can result is huge unpaid electricity bills, affect your credit, and have lasting effects on your financial stability.

You can still find affordable electricity without breaking the law.

On average, Power Wizard members save over 36% off their electricity bills.

How does Power Wizard save you so much on your electricity bills?

Energy usage is like a thumbprint—everyone’s is unique.

Several factors are considered when creating your energy usage profile, like:

  • Square footage of your home
  • Age of your home
  • Your zip code
  • The time of day your energy usage is highest

We gather this information along with your smart meter data to complete your energy usage profile before we begin to search for plans.

Then, our technology scans hundreds of energy rates and plans to match you with the best one to meet your unique energy needs.

Power Wizard considers everything…

  • The fine print
  • Hidden fees
  • Set rates

…before selecting the best plan for you.

Discover how much you could be saving on your electric bill by using our Shopping Tool.

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Power Wizard finds you the best electricity plan and ensures you won’t overpay for electricity again.

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Penalty for stealing electricity in Texas

Is It Against the Law To Share Electricity?

You have always been taught to share.

In preschool, you were encouraged to share toys with classmates.

In college, you shared a dorm with roommates and as an adult, you share pens with your co-workers.

Sharing is caring—except when it comes to sharing electricity.

It is dangerous and criminal. If you share electricity you could face sharing fines, sharing penalties, and possibly sharing a jail cell.

It is tempting to help out your neighbor or friend by allowing them to hook up to your electric meter. But the sharing of electricity can cause circuit overload.

An overloaded circuit can cause the wiring to overheat, melting the wire insulation and possibly resulting in a fire.

An overloaded circuit can also cause an electrical shock to a person which can result in bodily harm or death.

But wait, your townhouse shares a meter with the unit next to you. Is that illegal?

A shared meter or submetering is when one master meter is used for multiple units.

For example:

Sara owns a home with an additional apartment above the garage. She rents the home to Sam and the garage apartment to Bobby.

Even though Sam and Bobby are technically separate residents, both properties share an electric meter.

This is considered submetering and is perfectly legal in Texas, as long as both Sam and Bobby are aware they share a meter.

Submeter billing can be a little tricky.

Submetering gives landlords who supply electricity to their tenants the ability to measure each tenant’s energy.

This can promote energy conservation and offset additional energy-related expenses.

If you live in a single-family home or your apartments do not have submetered electricity, you can still save money on your electricity bills.

Power Wizard can help you discover the best electricity plan for your unique energy needs.

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What Happens If You Steal Electricity?

What is the worst thing that could happen when someone steals your electricity?

Stealing electricity can result in pretty hefty fines and possible jail time. We will talk more about the legal consequences in the following section.

Stealing electricity by tampering with an electric meter does not only cause legal problems, but it can also cause extreme damage and destruction.

If a power surge occurs on a tampered meter it can cause an electrical catastrophe.

A short circuit can create an arc flash bright enough to cause blindness and can launch hot metal shrapnel into anyone close by.

Serious injury or death from electrocution, explosion, or fire can also occur as a result of a tampered meter.

How does a meter cause a fire?

  • If a foreign object such as a piece of wire or metal is stuck into an electric meter, it can spark and discharge an electric current. It only takes one small spark to land on dead dry grass or the wooden siding of a home to start a fire.
  • Tampering with a meter can also result in the electrocution of the person tampering with it or a utility worker’s tasks with servicing the meter.
  • It can also cause an explosion that could potentially destroy not only the home of the tampered meter but other homes and businesses surrounding it.

Stealing electricity by tampering with a meter can risk the life, limbs, and homes of others. Is saving a few bucks really worth it?

What Are The Consequences Of Stealing Electricity?

In addition to the dangerous physical hazards stealing electricity can cause, there are also legal ramifications.

Some of the legal consequences of stealing electricity include:

  • A felony criminal charge
  • A misdemeanor criminal charge
  • Jail time
  • Fines

Any injury or death of a utility worker resulting from a tampered meter could also result in assault or manslaughter charges.

Avoid all the legal consequences of stealing electricity by finding the right electricity rate and planning for your energy needs.

Power Wizard:

  • Finds you the best electricity plan
  • Manages the switching process
  • Ensures you will never overpay for electricity.

But how is choosing an electricity company in Texas even an option?

The opportunity to choose your electricity provider is due to Texas Senate Bill 7, which was passed in 2002 and allows for the deregulation of electricity.

The state of Texas wanted to open the electricity market to avoid anyone power generator from controlling the industry and more importantly the price and cost of electricity.

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An open electricity market allows REPs to compete for your business. This competition gives you the opportunity to save money and get the best available electricity plan for your unique energy needs.

So, what does deregulation have to do with you and how can it save money?

Since there are so many REPs in Texas (over 160 to be exact), they are all competing for your business. Competition means you can save money because REPs all offer different electricity plans to entice you to choose them.

Penalty for stealing electricity in Texas

What Is The Fine For Stealing Electricity?

The fines or penalties for stealing electricity in Texas vary based on the cost of the stolen electricity.

1. Class A Misdemeanor

This charge results from a theft of service totaling more than $500 and less than $1500. The punishment for a Class A Misdemeanor includes up to one year in jail, a $4,000.00 fine or both

2. Class B Misdemeanor

This charge results from theft of service valued at more than $50 and less than $500. A Class B Misdemeanor can result in confinement in jail for 180 days, a $2,000 fine, or both.

3. Class C Misdemeanor

This charge results from a theft of service valued at less than $50. It results in a $500 fine.

In Texas, stealing more than $1,500 worth of electricity is a felony.

A felony theft charge carries up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

A Power Wizard membership costs far less than any of these fines and doesn’t require any jail time.

In fact, a membership with Power Wizard can save you money.

Can You Go To Jail For Stealing Electricity?

Electricity isn’t a tangible item. You can’t hold it or package it up.

So, is stealing electricity really even a crime?

Yes, believe it or not, stealing electricity is theft of service.

If the value of electricity stolen is more than $500 it can result in jail time.

How Is the Value of Electricity Determined?

It is based on the current electricity rates in your area.

Residential rates in the U.S. range from 8.37¢/kWh to 37.34¢/kWh.

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Power Wizard finds you the best electricity plan and ensures you won’t overpay for electricity again.

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Why Do the Rates Vary So Much?

Part of the reason electricity rates vary depends on the location and whether deregulated electricity is available.

In the majority of Texas, Retail Electric Providers (REPs) buy and sell energy—they are the middleman.

Power Generators produce energy, then sell it to REPs. REPs then sell energy to consumers.

There are many factors that influence a REP’s decision on when and how much energy to purchase.

  • Energy markets
  • Trends in energy usage
  • Weather patterns

They purchase electricity at the lowest possible rate. Then they sell it to their customers while still making a profit.

These are a few other factors that influence the current rates for electricity in Texas, like:

  • Weather
  • Supply and Demand
  • Distribution

How To Report Theft Of Electricity

If you suspect that someone is stealing your electricity, here are some things to check for:

  • Compare Your Energy Usage

Has your average electricity usage spiked? View several of your energy bills over the past months. Try to compare your current bill with a similar bill from the year prior.

  • Check for Wires

Examine your meter for extra wires or cords. A sure sign that your meter has been tampered with is extra wires, cords, or tags that have been removed.

  • Turn off Your Circuit Breakers

If your breakers are off and your meter is still running, someone is most likely stealing electricity.

  • Have an Electrician Check Your Meter

A quick visit from an electrician can give you peace of mind in knowing whether your meter has been tampered with.

  • Watch your Smart Meter

Many smart meters have built-in theft detection and tamper prevention systems in place. Smart meters can notify your electricity company if a foreign object has been inserted into your meter. They can also send a notification in real-time of any power abnormalities.

In some cases, someone can steal your electric meter. But why would anyone steal a meter?

Some meters contain copper which sells for a pretty penny.

When someone comes to read your meter, sometimes that’s when they are stolen, used, and replaced.

That may seem like a ton of effort to invest just to avoid paying for electricity, but some people will do anything to get out of paying for service.

So, what do you do if you suspect someone is stealing your electricity?

To report suspected stolen energy:

  • Contact your utility company
    • Many power companies have an option to report fraud or stolen electricity on their website
    • Call the power outage number or regular customer service phone number

Stealing electricity is a serious offense. It can result in bodily harm, injury, death, massive fines, and even jail time.

If your high electricity bill is NOT the result of theft, you should shop around for a better electricity plan.

Power Wizard’s service is completely unbiased. We harness the power of our proprietary technology to find you the best electricity plan based on your energy usage.

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Get started with us! It’s easy!

Just plug your zip code and a few relevant pieces of information into our Shopping Tool then sit back and let’s Power Wizard find the best available electricity rate for your needs.

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