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Defrauding an Innkeeper or Garagekeeper in Fairfax County

A charge of defrauding an Innkeeper or Garagekeeper is a form of larceny and is a relatively uncommon charge in Fairfax County.  It is either a Misdemeanor or Felony offense depending on the value (money) involved.  We have handled these cases before and most can be easily resolved with proper preparation.  Give us a call at 703-273-4100 or use the contact form and we would be happy to give you a free consultation about your case.


The act of defrauding means to cause an injury or loss to a person or entity by deceit.  Virginia Code §18.2-188 makes it a crime to cheat or defraud an owner or keeper without paying for something.  The statute makes it a crime for the following situations:

  • Put up at a hotel, motel, campground, or boardinghouse.  This provision is what it sounds like and pertains to staying at a hotel, motel, campground, or boardinghouse without paying.  We have had cases where our client was dissatisfied with the lodging and did not pay.  In other cases we have seen people simply leave a hotel without checking out because they were trying to catch or flight or start their drive home but forgot to pay.
  • Obtaining food from a restaurant.  This is sometimes called “dine and dash” where the person orders and eats food and then leaves without paying for it.  We have seen Judges extend this statute to include not paying for alcoholic beverages. 

The penalties for Defrauding a Hotel or Restaurant can be severe if the case is not addressed properly.  If the value of service obtained is less than $1,000 it is a Class 1 Misdemeanor which means a jail sentence of up to 12 months.  If the value of service obtained is $1,000 or more it is a Class 5 Felony which means a jail sentence of up to 10 years.  It should be noted that Judges will rarely impose the maximum jail sentence in these cases.  However, these cases should not be ignored and proper preparation is key.


It is a Class 2 Misdemeanor to defraud a garagekeeper under Virginia Code §18.2-189.  A garagekeeper stores motor vehicles, boats, or other watercrafts.  This includes garages, marinas, and dealerships.  Accordingly, it is a crime to not to pay for the storage of these vehicles, supplies for the vehicles, or repair of the vehicles.  This includes if there is a lien on the vehicle.

The most frequent cases we see involving garagekeepers include not paying for use of a parking deck or for repairs to their vehicle.   In cases involving use of a parking deck, we have had cases where it is late at night and the parking deck is closed but our client's vehicle remains inside.  Consequently, the client needs their vehicle so they get their vehicle and leave the premises without paying.  In other cases the person removes their vehicle from a repair shop but doesn't pay for the services rendered by the shop.

As a Class 2 Misdemeanor the penalty for Defrauding a Garagekeeper is up to 6 months in jail.  As noted above, Judges rarely imposed such a lengthy jail sentence in these cases.  However, a conviction will result in a Misdemeanor being on the criminal record.


In most cases we will figure out what the value of the service was and have our client ready to pay for it either before or in court.  We may also recommend doing some community service hours.  Putting everyone back to square (called “Restitution”) is a good way to put a prosecutor in a position where they can agree to dismiss the charge.  Dismissal of the charge avoids a criminal conviction.

In cases where it appears a trial is warranted, the Commonwealth of Virginia must prove an intent to cheat or defraud the owner or keeper.  Simply forgetting to pay, for example, is not an intent to defraud.  It should be noted that many Judges will lean towards finding intent to defraud upon clear evidence that the crime has been committed.  But a well-reasoned explanation of why payment was not rendered can help clear up any ambiguities.  


Defrauding an Innkeeper or Garagekeeper are criminal offenses.  They are negotiable and are winnable.  We are in Court everyday and would be happy to assist you.  We handle cases in the Fairfax County General District Court, Fairfax City District Court, Town of Vienna District Court, and Herndon District Court.  All calls are confidential so, at a minimum, it's a good idea to speak to us so you can make the best decision moving forward.

The truth about your case

We will not “sugar coat.” We will tell you exactly what you are facing and will give you the best and worst case scenarios. We are not here to scare you or to pull the wool over your eyes. We find many people calling us for a simple case where they have spoken to other lawyers and are now afraid. However, after speaking with those people and getting the facts, many times there is nothing to fear. We will tell you how things look and we will tell you the truth because we want happy clients. That’s you!

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