In America, all but two U.S. states allow drivers to pump their fuel at a gas station. Pumping your own fuel in a self-service gas station is a simple process; you pull up to a pump, open the gas port of your vehicle and insert the nozzle. Of course, you’ll also have to indicate how much fuel you’ll be pumping by inputting how much you’ll be paying.
But some devious drivers have discovered ways to refuel their vehicles without paying or paying for less than what the pump indicated. According to Florida law, a court can charge you with theft if you commit these so-called “drive-off” offenses.
How are drive-off offenses committed?
A Department of Justice report noted that drive-off offenses usually occur in gas stations or convenience stores lacking surveillance systems and employees to catch gas and dashers. Gas stations that allow customers to pump first before paying are also a major contributor to drive-offs.
You can also inadvertently commit a drive-off if you use one of these older gas pumps without pre-pay functions, then genuinely forget to pay and leave.
Penalties for drive-offs
Per Florida law, drive-offs are considered petit theft offenses of the second degree and misdemeanors of the second degree. Upon conviction, you could face a fine of $500 and jail time of up to 60 days.
In addition to the penalties above, a court can forward your driver’s license to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) for potential suspension. If the department suspends your license, it could be for up to six months. If you’re charged for drive-off for a second time, the FLHSMV will suspend your license for a year.
If you mistakenly gas and dashed, you could be charged as a criminal and lose your driving privileges. Consider consulting legal counsel if you want to communicate your mistake properly in court and avoid the charges.