Can I go to jail for not paying for unauthorized auto repairs?

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Can I go to jail for not paying for unauthorized auto repairs?

My 18 year old son took his car in for an alignment. When he went to pick the car up they slapped him with an $875 bill which included 4 new tires, tire rods, belts, and the alignment. We told them the service was not authorized and the could put the old parts back on the car and we would pay for the alignment as requested. They refused to call the manager and said they would keep the car and we needed to come back when the manager returned from vacation. We explained the vehicle as needed and the situation needed to be handled. We eventually left with the vehicle.

Asked on February 8, 2012 under General Practice, Indiana

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Typically no--a failure to pay for repairs, whether authorized or not, will not result in criminal liability. The repair shop may be able to sue your son and/or you for the money they claim you owe them, but there is no criminal penalty for nonpayment unless it can be shown that you acted with criminal intent. For example, if they can show that you never intended to pay for repairs but were engaged in an attempt, from the outset, to defraud them (rather than getting into a dispute after the fact about the cost, authorization, etc.), that could possibly lead to criminal liability.

Note that even if the sue you, they don't win automatically--they have to prove the existence of some agreement to pay these costs and that they are legitimate charges, and you can present your evidence and testimony disputing that.


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