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Defrauding An Innkeeper: What Are The Penalties For “Dine-and-Dash” In Michigan?

by | Mar 3, 2022 | Criminal Law |


In Michigan, “defrauding an innkeeper” is a crime of using fraud to obtain goods or services from a business without paying for them.  In its most common form, defrauding an innkeeper includes the practice of “dine-and-dash” where someone will go to a restaurant to enjoy a meal but then purposely leaves without paying for the services provided.  This can also apply to someone who stays at an inn, motel or hotel for the night but leaves before checking out and paying for any room service provided.  Usually, it is the employees who end up paying the price when this happens.  If a waitress comes up short on payment from the customers they served, the difference will come out of their tips and wages.  To deter this bad behavior, Michigan law criminalizes this fraudulent behavior by providing for the risk of fines, probation or even jail.

MCL 750.292 provides as follows:

“Any person who shall put up at any hotel, motel, inn, restaurant or cafe as a guest and shall procure any food, entertainment or accommodation without paying therefor, except when credit is given therefor by express agreement, with intent to defraud such keeper thereof out of the pay for the same, or, who, with intent to defraud such keeper out of the pay therefor, shall obtain credit at any hotel, motel, inn, restaurant or cafe for such food, entertainment or accommodation, by means of any false show of baggage or effects brought thereto, is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

A conviction for defrauding an innkeeper is punishable by a fine up to $100.00 or up to 90 days in jail, or both.

If you are accused of defrauding an innkeeper in Michigan, you have defenses available under the law that can be asserted since the prosecutor has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • NO INTENT TO DEFRAUD: You cannot accidentally defraud an innkeeper in Michigan. The prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you intended to defraud the establishment you received goods and services from.  For example, it would be difficult to prove dine-and-dash where the patron forgot his wallet but left the restaurant to obtain money with the intent of returning to pay the bill.  Likewise, an intoxicated barfly who stumbles out of the tavern and forgot to pay the tab may not have the criminal mental state necessary to form the intent to defraud.  That being said, intent can be inferred under the individual facts and circumstances.  A jury could conclude that the patron who forgot his wallet had the intent to defraud if he did not return to the restaurant to pay after a reasonable period of time.  Likewise, the intoxicated barfly may not get a pass because the jury will be instructed by the court that voluntary intoxication is not a defense to a crime (although it may negate specific intent to defraud, it does not negate the general intent to commit a crime).
  • NOT A HOTEL, MOTEL, INN, RESTAURANT AND CAFÉ: The statute is specific regarding the type of business that is covered. If any other establishment other than a hotel, motel, inn, restaurant or café where goods and services were offered in advance was defrauded, then it is not applicable to MCL 750.292.
  • NOT REPORTED WITHIN 60 DAYS BY BUSINESS AFFECTED: Further according to MCL 750.292, “[n]o conviction shall be had under the provisions of this section unless complaint is made within 60 days of the time of the violation hereof.”

While defrauding an innkeeper is specific to the situations described above, there is nothing that prevents the prosecutor from charging more serious crimes.  The offender could still be liable for and charged under a different crime such as larceny by trick or retail fraud that can carry even more serious penalties.  For example, if the amount of the property stolen has a value of $1,000.00 or more, then the thief can be liable for a felony punishable with the possibility of state prison.  The more expensive the goods and services that were defrauded, the higher the potential penalties will be.  Anyone accused of defrauding an innkeeper or any other crime should get a skilled criminal defense lawyer in their corner right away.

If you or a loved one are accused of any crime and need legal representation, then do not hesitate to contact the experienced attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC for assistance today.


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