Is skipping out on a date and leaving them with the food bill a (literal) crime?

I was reading this article of a guy in California who made it a habit of running out on dates and leaving them to pay the dinner bill (often a substantial bill). Basically he would meet them online and get them to commit to a dinner date, often at an expensive restaurants, and would then make some excuse to leave the table and then ditch them leaving the woman to pay the bill.

The article mentions that four charges of extortion have been brought against this guy which could land him in jail for 16+ years for doing this.

No question this guy is a world class asshole but is what he did really a crime? And if it is a crime would it be extortion? I thought extortion was obtaining something via threat. I am not seeing where he threatened anyone here. On top of that 16 years in prison (potentially) would seem excessive for this.

I wonder if there is even a civil case to be had here. Is there a contract being broken when you take a woman on a date if you do not pay for the bill?

Again, I want to be crystal clear this guy is a total ass and if nothing else just having to deal with facing criminal charges seems a form of justice he had coming. Still though…extortion???

IANAL, but if he agreed beforehand to pay for the entire meal, then I suppose he could be charged with Theft by Deception. OTOH, if there was no discussion beforehand on who would pay the bill, then I am skeptical he could be charged with anything.

Sixteen years definitely seems a bit severe, I mean some killers don’t get that long a sentence, that said I doubt he gets a sentence close to that long unless the judge is making some insane example out of him.

If there was no discussion beforehand, then there would be no expectation that the woman would be paying for his meal, which is the theory they seem to be going with:

And it’s that “threat of public humiliation” that’s probably behind the extortion part.

But at a minimum, he is guilty of stealing his meal, regardless of who paid, because he had no reasonable expectation that his date would be paying.

What if there was no discussion beforehand on who would pay, and the woman walked out? Should she be charged with something?

I noted at the bottom of the article that he’s also being charged with multiple counts of petty theft, not just the scamming. I suspect the ‘max sentence’ is derived from simply adding together a lot of possible max short sentences.

It is a tricky one; there is a social expectation that if you invite someone out for dinner, you’ll be paying, independent of the (imo thoroughly outdated) expectation that the man will pay. Inviting someone for an expensive dinner then secretly leaving without paying any of the bill definitely seems like it’s a form of scamming by deception, regardless of the gender of the people involved.

Being invited then leaving without paying, not so much (for a start, it also raises the likelihood of the invite being of the ‘I’ll buy you dinner then you gotta sleep with me’ skeevy kind where walking out is a reasonable response).

I’d say inviting someone on a date, without other discussion of payment, could reasonably be interpreted an offer to pay for the whole thing, but it definitely implies the inviter will at least pay their own way.

Absolute dick moves on his part so I could fully support a theft by deception charge. Not sure about extortion, but that’s the prosecutors call.

And yes, if a woman repeatedly goes out with people with the intent of skipping out before the bill is due then she should be charged too.

In both cases it would be a steep uphill battle to prove without there having been multiple occurrences. Otherwise it would just be a he said - she said argument that the other was being totally inappropriate/skeavy to the point that they felt they would be in danger if they had stayed.

Seems to me the woman, being the person still at the table, has an obligation to the restaurant to pay the bill.

The restaurant does not ascertain who is paying for what at the beginning of a meal. They serve the table and expect someone will pay.

Yes the guy running out and sticking her with the bill is a super-dick move but that does not absolve the people left at the table (in this case the woman) from settling with the restaurant.

I suppose she could try and explain the situation to the manager and hope for some sympathy but that is about it. If she tries walking out without paying I would think the restaurant could call the police on her.

The question is does the “threat” that the restaurant will call the police count as extortion? Seems a reach to me.

I’ll bet he doesn’t get many second dates.

I completely agree the man in this case is a complete a-hole. Especially because he allegedly does this routinely to embarrass his dates.

Walking out on a bad date isn’t anything new. I’m thankful it never happened to me. But I recall a few times that I wondered if my date had ditched me. Bathroom breaks can seem to last forever when you’re nervous and unsure how a first date is going.

I’m a little conflicted over criminal prosecution. It seems like this situation could be handled in small claims court. It should be possible to get compensation for at least half the bill.

This guy obviously has problems. Ditching a date should be the last possible option. The old phone call from a roommate trick is tailor made to excuse yourself, put money on the table, and leave. That certainly shows more class than just disappearing and leaving someone to pay the whole bill.

On a related note,

If I’m the date left with the bill and I pay for only what I personally ordered do they have a case for theft against me becuase I didn’t pay the whole tab?

All you can do is explain the situation to the manager or assistant manager. Try to work something out.

I went to college in a small town. There were only a few restaurants and the staff quickly recognized regular customers. I’m sure they’d be more sympathetic. Credit cards get declined or people leave their wallet at home. Stuff happens and a restaurant should be flexible with regular customers. Work something out. Let them come in the next day and pay.

They know you’re good for the money. Otherwise you could never visit that restaurant again.

Yes, but if they both walked out, it doesn’t seem right that she would be culpable and he not just because he walked out first.

What if, after he walked out, she paid for her own meal but not his?

I agree with aceplace57 that it is likely you can work something out with the restaurant. Usually they are reasonable, particularly in a higher-end restaurant (although tip your server on the full amount).

That said I think (I do not know, IANAL) if they restaurant wanted to press it they could insist the full check be paid by whoever is left.

Of course, and the few times I’ve forgotten my wallet or the CC machine was down it happened to be at places I was a regular and there was never an issue.

I’m asking if I would be considered obligated, by law or by the resteraunt, to pay for my companions share if they skipped on me as these people were skipped on. I figure if they weren’t obligated than it would be closer to theft of service more than theft by deception.

yes, but with what authority? I’m trying to find out where the obligation to pay for someone else comes from. It’s not my fault, or the establishments, that this person took off.

The latest victim of this dine & dash dater had her meal comped by restaurant management.

I doubt there is a crime here, but small claims court would likely rule the victim’s favor, for at least the cost of the ditcher’s meal.

Why did he even bother bringing a date? He probably could’ve done the same thing alone.

Same authority any merchant has…they call the police.

The restaurant provided a service and they are due to be paid for it. They do not contract with the table before dinner to determine who will be paying. Maybe if you expressly tell them you are splitting the check (as sometimes happens) you could make a good case to pay only your portion because then the server has been tracking who had what.

It’s a simple 2x2 decision box, so four cases:

  1. The Bolter and Boltee did not agree at any time on payment.

  2. The Bolter agreed to pay both.

  3. The Bolter and Boltee agreed to split.

  4. The Boltee agreed to pay both.

  5. Is not relevant. Jerk behavior, but not something of interest to courts.

1, 2 and 3 all mean the Bolter stiffed the restaurant of his share. And in case 2 he stiffed the Boltee as well. Stiffing a restaurant is a crime against the restaurant. Stiffing the Boltee may or may not be considered a crime of the fraud variety, but it could be a civil matter.

Doing this once may not be worth the local PD/DA’s time. Doing it repeatedly could get their attention. Note that people get threatened all the time with a big sentence. The goal is to “encourage” a plea deal to something more reasonable. Probably a fine, probation and a requirement to pay people back.

Plea deals are the lifeblood of the current justice system in the US. It’s a game. Like with decision boxes …

Just becuase they’re due payment doesn’t mean its due from me.

Calling the cops doesn’t create an obligation to pay for things another person ordered either, so far as I’m aware.