Can A Contractor Get Charged With Theft For Not Finishing A Job?

Law Blog

If you're a contractor and have a project go bad, it's not uncommon to have the customer threaten to call the police. Will the police actually do anything? It depends on what happened.

You Took the Money Without Intending to Do the Job

There is a common scam where someone who is pretending to be a contractor or who is actually a contractor bidding on a job and collecting a deposit. They then disappear without ever doing any work, and they never intended to do any work.

This is a clear case of fraud. The charges will be either misdemeanor or felony theft, depending on the amount of money involved. There may also be related fraud charges the police will add on as well.

If you're an honest contractor, this isn't too hard to defend. You simply need to show that you have an active business and that you work through your jobs as normal.

You Took the Money and Weren't Able to Complete the Job

There are a number of reasons you may not be able to finish a job you started. You might fall ill, have a contractor back out, or not receive materials that you ordered.

To charge you with theft or fraud, the police generally need to show that you had an intent to steal or defraud. If you were taking the next steps on the job when something outside of your control happened, you wouldn't have the necessary intent.

Since you didn't complete the work, the customer would still be entitled to a refund. This is mostly a civil matter. However, if you avoid giving a refund when you have the money available to do so or used the money towards other purposes, it may become criminal for mishandling the funds.

The Job Wasn't What the Customer Wanted

If a customer just isn't happy with the work, this is a civil and customer service matter rather than a criminal matter. For example, if they think their new tiles are slightly out of alignment, they're not alleging a criminal act.

It may become criminal if you intentionally didn't give them what they want. For example, if you charged them for higher-quality materials than you used and pocketed the difference, this could be a criminal fraud as you misrepresented the work you would do. This is why it's important to have a good contract showing exactly what you promised to do.

To learn more about what to do if you're worried about theft charges, contact a local criminal defense attorney today.


9 February 2021