TGIFriday's Bummer Brews: California Theft Laws

TGI Fridays

TGI FridaysTGIF's Bummer Brews: California Fraud Laws

TGI Friday's was fined $500,000.00 when it was discovered that the employees were charging customers for top shelf liquor but only putting the cheap booze in their drinks.

The restaurant company paid out the fine, but what about the servers and/or bartenders? Shouldn't they be served up some punishment as well? Probably not, since they were acting as employees of TGI Friday's, and as such the employer will take all the heat. Nevertheless, a theft has occurred.

In California the essence of a theft is an unlawful taking, broken down by the method of the taking. In this instance it would be theft by deception. California Penal Code Section 484(a) states that every person who shall … knowingly and designedly, by any false or fraudulent representation or pretense, defraud any other person of money…is guilty of theft.

In this instance the patrons of TGI Friday's were not just paying for the beverage they were paying for the services provided by TGI Friday's, meaning the act of mixing and serving their drinks. According to California Penal Code Section 484(a) in order to determine the value of the services received the contract price shall be the test. So, in this case it would be the difference is price of the top shelf minus the price of the "well liquor" + the price of the patron's check.

In California the theft laws have some rather controversial code sections; namely sections 666 and 667. Section 666 is known officially as petty theft with a prior and colloquially as felony petty theft. This section of code makes it possible for someone who commits a minor theft related offense to be charged with a felony if the person has been convicted of three or more theft-related offenses in the past.

It just goes to show you that it is important to know the law… or at least a good attorney. So why not know the best? Get to know him here at

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