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EV Owner Arrested Over 5 Cents Worth of Electricity From School's Outlet 1010

Posted by Soulskill
from the charged-for-charging dept.
sl4shd0rk writes "It seems you can be arrested in Georgia for drawing 5 cents of electricity from a school's outdoor receptacle. Kaveh Kamooneh was charged with theft for plugging his Nissan Leaf into a Chamblee Middle School 110V outlet; the same outlet one could use to charge a laptop or cellphone. The Leaf draws 1KW/hour while charging which works out to under $0.10 of electricity per hour. Mr Kamooneh charged his Leaf for less than 30 minutes, which works out to about a nickel. Sgt. Ernesto Ford, the arresting officer, pointed out, 'theft is a theft,' which was his argument for arresting Mr. Kamooneh. Considering the cost of the infraction, it does not seem a reasonable decision when considering how much this will cost the state in legal funds. Does this mean anyone charging a laptop or cell phone will be charged with theft as well?"
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EV Owner Arrested Over 5 Cents Worth of Electricity From School's Outlet

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  • Theft (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:06PM (#45598461)

    Stealing is stealing. Was it his? Was there a sign saying come use our free power? Is it ok for me to walk up to your house and plug in my car or device to an outside outlet? I am not sure the guy needed to be arrested, a ticket and fine would be in order. BUT it's only a nickel... Yea... Tell that to the store when you steal 5 cents worth of candy, not that any candy is 5 cents anymore... But my point stands.

  • Good (Score:1, Insightful)

    by lambent (234167) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:06PM (#45598475)

    I'm getting pretty tired of seeing extension cords snaking through parking lots and parking garages.

    I don't think the issue here is just five cents; some places can't handle the capacity this puts on their systems or wiring, or perhaps they don't want the liability of you screwing up your car thanks to faulty wiring, and suing you for it. And hell, what if some bright person uses a cord that's too light of a gauge for the current, and ends up starting a fire or hurting someone?

    Charging should be done where appropriate, not wherever anyone wants.

  • by BoRegardless (721219) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:09PM (#45598511)

    He has virtually zero risk in such an arrest.

    He enhances his standing, knows he'll get a conviction and won't face a drunken driver or armed robber. Easy hit for his weekly arrest and ticket actions.

  • This sounds racist (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jharish (101858) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:09PM (#45598521)

    I bet if the "suspect" was named "John Smith" and white he might not have been arrested.

    I'm surprised that didn't make it into the summary.

  • by Wdomburg (141264) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:10PM (#45598537)

    I suspect it is about establishing precedent and combating the idea that EV owners are entitled to "free" power, not about recovering costs in this specific incident.

  • Water (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dimwit (36756) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:10PM (#45598549)

    If he filled up his thermos with water from the bathroom sink, would that be theft as well?

  • by Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:15PM (#45598633) Homepage
    Sounds like an illegal search to me. Personally I would have called 911 and reported that there was someone in my vehicle who should be there. This way had it been someone dangerous the cops would be the ones dealing with it and in this case there would have been an audio recording of the event probably with the 911 dispatcher mentioning that the cop is who is in their car.
  • A theft is a theft (Score:5, Insightful)

    by guibaby (192136) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:15PM (#45598637)

    But there should be a certain amount of common sense when enforcing the law. First did the school complain? If the school did not complain, did the officer ask the school if there was an issue? If there was an issue, I am sure the officer or the school could have approached the man and asked him to stop using their plug. They could even post a sign saying "please do not use our plugs to charge your devices." All of this would have been cheaper, more effective and infinitely less hostile than arresting the guy.

  • by mc6809e (214243) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:17PM (#45598659)

    Okay. So WE all know it was just $0.05 after the fact, but put yourself in the place of the cop. Someone has a 1+ ton electrical machine plugged into an outlet. Just how much energy is being taken? Without knowing the power, the cop has no idea.

    To the cop or average person, the electrical cord is analogous to a siphon.

    Anyone caught siphoning gas from a government car into their own car is going to be arrested. This looks like the same thing to the cop.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:18PM (#45598693)

    What I see is someone poking around a car... Guy walks up gets mad. Turns out guy poking around is cop. Yelling match ensues. Guy arrested for whatever the cop can think of.

  • Re:Theft (Score:5, Insightful)

    by alexander_686 (957440) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:18PM (#45598699)

    Well, the water fountain was designed and installed for free water. And there are outlets in public places for free electricity to top off one’s phone. But I don’t think that was the case here. I see this as more akin to your next door neighbor running an extension line over to your home to borrow a little electricity – and failing to tell you. It might be for only a small amount but it is not good behavior. I think that a stern warning might have been better unless it was a chronic problem.

  • Re:Good (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:19PM (#45598721)

    God forbid you deny anything to the "oppressed" or the self-entitled. I expect you'll be flamed and modded down here since /. is full of communists.

  • by cowwoc2001 (976892) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:21PM (#45598745)

    Unlikely. There is no evidence that the cop saw the defendant before entering his car and preparing the paperwork to fine/arrest him.

  • Re:More than theft (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Martin Blank (154261) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:22PM (#45598761) Journal

    It's about an 8.3A draw. It's not going to burn down the building, even if another such draw is happening. I'd be surprised if the breakers are rated for anything less than 25A, and wouldn't be surprised to see 40A breakers.

  • Re:More than theft (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:28PM (#45598899)

    If anyone is going to jail about a fire hazard at a current the fuse will allow, it's probably the electrician or the owner of the property.

  • by rubycodez (864176) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:29PM (#45598905)

    not illegal to enter a vehicle being used in the commission of a crime in progress

    yes this stealing of elecricity was wrong and illegal, electric vehicle owners have no right to plug in whereever they find an outlet.

  • by Al Dunsmuir (758685) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:31PM (#45598945)
    In colder parts of Canada, there are outlets provided in parking lots so that drivers can plug in their electric battery/block heaters.f - It kind of ruins your day to not be able to start your car because the oil has gotten too thick. I would not be surprised if the same faculties are available in Western US states and Minnesota. My thoughts on seeing the title was that good-ol' quote from Cool Hand Luke. - Whut we have heah is a failure to communicate.
  • Re:Good (Score:4, Insightful)

    by war4peace (1628283) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:35PM (#45599019)

    I think the discussion is not around whether the activity would be legal or appropriate. It's more around whether the arrest is really the proper way to handle that infraction. It's akin to beheading someone for swearing in public.

  • by rsborg (111459) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:36PM (#45599039) Homepage

    He has virtually zero risk in such an arrest.

    Is this true? What if the arrested individual raises a stink and files suit? The issue here is that cops can do blatantly stupid things (sometimes causing fatalities), paper over it with any one of a number of vague laws being violated (resisting arrest!) and catch no flack for their inept handling of issues.

  • by ledow (319597) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:37PM (#45599065) Homepage

    Don't hyperbolise.

    Did the cop know or reasonably suspect that a theft was being committed? Yes.

    Is he required to know exactly the local electricity rates, the rate of the consumption of the car, the time it was plugged it down to the nearest second, the cable losses, and the discount that the school gets on electricity supply before he can make an arrest? No.

    And if you read the article, he didn't - he made a report, the arrest came when the facts came to light.

    If a kid runs out of a shop chased by security with an armful of things, the cop doesn't need to itemise what he has and whether it reaches a certain figure. You arrest, then you investigate, which is the purpose of the arrest, and then if necessary you "escalate" the arrest to a formal charge.

    Being arrested means NOTHING except detaining you on reasonable suspicion of a crime until it can be ascertained whether a crime has been committed or not.

    Fact is, he didn't arrest him, that came later when they checked facts. And he can arrest him because he has more than a reasonable suspicion that he took something (a product or service) that didn't belong to him, without permission, and with the intention to permanently deprive the owner of it. MORE THAN reasonable. In that he could see him doing it first-hand and query him about it and get an admission ("Yeah, but it's only 5c!" is basically an admission that you did it if you have anywhere near a half-decent lawyer on the other side).

    What part of this confuses you? He was arrested, after much consultation, for a crime he admits doing, that a policeman caught him doing, which the school did not give permission for him to do, petty though it is.

    You know what? I bet if he'd asked the school and even said "Here's ten cents for the school charity, can I just plug in my car outside for a minute so I can get home?" they'd have told the police that it was authorised and there'd be no issue.

  • Re:Theft (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mullen (14656) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:38PM (#45599073)

    Here on Earth and not Planet Black and White, there is thing called, "correct response to a problem". Here on Earth, we handout measured punishments based on the actually crime committed and the damage done to the victim. The offender in this case stole 5 cents of electricity. Which, while technically is a crime, is not a large one and not one worth the time of a police officer. If, for some reason, it did come to the attention of a police officer, they should have issued a warning since that may have all that is needed. Having a state employee deal with this is a net loss to society and its people since the officer could be doing other things like chase murders and rapists.

  • by cbeaudry (706335) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:40PM (#45599117)

    I think a stern warning or a ticket makes more sense.

    People who say someone should be arrested for something as mundane this, even if he should not have done it, haven't never been arrested before.

    No matter WHAT the reason, you are treated as a dirty murdering rapist while in the cell by the LEO's.

    There is no universe in which this arrest makes any sense. (A ticket... of course).

  • Re:Water (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:41PM (#45599135)
    But you are not a public school.
  • Re:Theft (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:42PM (#45599141) Homepage Journal
    De minimis non curat lex. Laws were invented to prevent harm, not categories of behaviour. Your point is fundamentally misguided.
  • by TheCarp (96830) <> on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:52PM (#45599323) Homepage

    Its not so much about being ok or not being ok....its about it being such a small amount that anyone making any sort of a deal over it is....kind of an asshole.

    If I caught someone stealing 5 cents from me, it would be unlikely to garner more than a "hey what the fuck man".

    There is being right, and there is being an asshole who is right.

  • Re:Theft? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by c_jonescc (528041) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:56PM (#45599393)
    Agreed. The line is not well defined, and it is ludicrous that with those ambiguities (why exactly is his car different from a phone, or a laptop?) the police would go to his home at dinner time to arrest him days later.

    They intentionally arrested him at 8p. A time when it's hard to get paperwork/representation/hearing, and thus chose that he be forced to jail overnight. Jail overnight! Not for drunken driving, not for violence or endangerment, for an ill-defined "theft". Why would that be a reasonable course of action? If the police picked up someone over a week later for a night in jail for a stolen *anything* with small value, everyone would likely see agenda/corruption driving the decision.

    Would they have done that if I plugged in my laptop? My phone? Is this outlet only for maintenance's use? If so, why isn't it secured against this "theft", tampering, or adolescent darwin-award experimentation? If it's for student or community use, why is this a problem?

    Is this school private or public? What rights does he have as a student's parent vs. a student vs. anyone else? Could we expect that if one of the faculty charged their phone there, that they too would spend a night in jail?

    I suspect it's got a lot to do with politics and a regional dislike of environmentalists or liberals. I'd be very happy to learn otherwise, because the police selectively seeking punitive punishment for what materials goods you possess, and what they infer those goods mean about you is not a great direction for us to be heading.
  • Re:Theft (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pixelpusher220 (529617) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @04:04PM (#45599545)
    He could be the officer assigned to the school, hence he would have jurisdiction - but as you said we don't know.

    If the EV owner has a child at the school, then he might very well have reasonable belief that he could use the electricity since he's technically paying for it. Hell, with public schools all people in the district are paying for the electric bill.

    This is an issue we'll have to address, since no reasonable person thinks there's anything approaching criminal with someone plugging their phone in while waiting in a reception area. But plugging in the car outside while on school property and presumably with official business at the school is somehow different?

    The only difference here is likely the scale of the draw, since an EV is going to draw significantly more power in total than a phone ever would.
  • by GameMaster (148118) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @04:05PM (#45599569)

    IANAL but as I believe (as others have pointed out) it's not illegal for a police officer to enter a vehicle being used in the commission of a crime (at least in all the US municipalities I'm familiar with). However, that said, the more I think about it the more I believe you've just touched on the REAL reason for the absurd $0.05 theft of service charge. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the cop is using that as a way to legalize what would otherwise have been an illegal fishing expedition searching through the guy's car for more serious contraband. If he didn't charge the guy with SOMETHING, he risks becoming the criminal.

  • Re:Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @04:13PM (#45599691) Journal

    I'm getting pretty tired of seeing extension cords snaking through parking lots and parking garages.

    Why? How does it hurt you?

  • Re:Math is math (Score:4, Insightful)

    by berashith (222128) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @04:14PM (#45599723)

    if you get up to 1.81 jiggawatts, then you can choose your own time period

  • Re:Water (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jawnn (445279) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @04:26PM (#45599929)

    If he filled up his thermos with water from the bathroom sink, would that be theft as well?

    Damn right! Especially if it was a "whites only" sink.

  • by frootcakeuk (638517) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @04:53PM (#45600403)
    Sounds like a great excuse to charge $5+ for a bottle of pop
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @05:02PM (#45600527)

    And this adds to the overall cost of an EV. Not just moving pollution producing activities to other communities and claiming a moral superiority but, now, the sense of entitlement--entitled to free electricity at the expense of the taxpayers and property owners. The arrogance of EV owners is astonishing!

  • by TheCarp (96830) <> on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @05:12PM (#45600705) Homepage

    Except this is a "commons" that doesn't have to be common. I don't know about this school or how far from the car it was but.... I have an electrical outlet on the outside of my house. Its not very close to the street, and I STILL have it on a switch which is inside the house.

    Fact is, they put it out there, in public, where people could use it. If they put up a water fountain would they arrest people for stealing water when they drank from it?

    Personally, I am perfectly ok with setting the precedent that if you put something that looks like a service out in public with no control over it whatsoever, you are giving them implicit license to use it.

  • by daem0n1x (748565) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @05:27PM (#45601051)

    But theft above one billion entitles you to a government bailout and "free from jail" card.

    Stealing bucks is for losers!

  • Re:More than theft (Score:2, Insightful)

    by JoeMerchant (803320) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @05:32PM (#45601187)

    It's not about 5 cents, it's the principle of taking something that's not yours. The arrest also probably was precipitated more by a personality clash between the car owner, school personnel, and officer at the scene, but you can't arrest someone for being an obnoxious jerk, not on paper anyway.

    However, if every parent driving to every school in the county started recharging their cars while parked there, it would create load issues, and require additional electrician work that would probably cost far more than the first year's electrical load. Now, we're talking about thousands of dollars here, in a State that is also known for having a mortician that dumped bodies out in the woods and gave people fireplace ash in urns, just to save on gas costs for cremation.

    On the other hand, I think the cop in question should really get off the electrical outlet patrol and go back to writing tickets on drivers who are texting while stopped at red lights.

  • Re:More than theft (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @06:32PM (#45602121) Homepage

    What makes you think it's there for the benefit of the public? It's more likely there for the sole use of custodial/maintenance staff.

  • by JayBat (617968) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @09:21PM (#45603835)
    If you were actually concerned about expense to taxpayers, you would be complaining about the cop wasting police department time and money, and the court's time and money, and you would have a point. As it it is though, you're just being silly. -Jay-
  • Re:More than theft (Score:4, Insightful)

    by n7ytd (230708) on Thursday December 05, 2013 @01:52PM (#45609773)

    Do you have an electrical outlet on the outside wall of your home? A water faucet? Please let us all know where we can come and charge and wash our EVs at your expense.

    When you go into a restroom in a park, do you take a couple of rolls of toilet paper home? It's there for the public, after all.

I judge a religion as being good or bad based on whether its adherents become better people as a result of practicing it. - Joe Mullally, computer salesman