Except for one state, self-service fuel pumps are legal across America. Gas stations throughout the country are allowed to operate half of their pumps as self-serve so that customers can operate the pumps unassisted.
Self-service gas stations may have lower prices than full-service stations, but they can invite devious customers looking to pump gas for free. While modern self-service pumps won’t dispense any fuel until a customer pays first, there are electronic ways to trick the system into pumping without cost. Some older gas stations might also allow customers to pump first before paying, which might tempt some drivers to “gas and dash.”
Regardless of the method, not paying for any motor fuel pumped into a vehicle is a theft crime in Maryland. Offenders will face fines, jail time and even administrative penalties for conviction.
Fuel theft treated like any theft offense
Per state law, a person who commits motor fuel theft faces the same penalties on conviction as those charged with regular theft. The grade of the offense and its corresponding penalties depend on the amount of fuel stolen:
- Fuel stolen worth less than $100: The offense is a misdemeanor. The convicted driver faces up to 90 days of jail time and $500 in fines. A court may also order them to pay the gas station for the value of the stolen fuel.
- Fuel stolen equal to $100 or more, less than $1,500: The offense is a misdemeanor. The convicted driver faces up to six months of jail time and $500 in fines for a first conviction. For a second conviction, the imprisonment period increases to up to a year. A court may also order them to pay the gas station for the value of the stolen fuel.
In addition to these penalties, a convicted driver will face administrative punishment.
License suspension for offenders
Once a court convicts a person of motor fuel theft, it will inform the individual that they could potentially face a license suspension. The court will then notify Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administration, which can suspend the driver’s license for up to 30 days.
Fortunately, drivers may request a hearing over this suspension if they want to restore their privileges.
In conclusion, failing to pay for motor fuel in Maryland is a theft offense. It’s punishable by fines, jail time, and license suspension. If you face charges, keep in mind that a conviction will also result in a misdemeanor on your criminal record, which could affect your career and education opportunities. Consider working with a legal professional to challenge the accusations in court.