Not since Arlo Guthrie found himself behind bars in the "Alice's Restaurant Massacree" has an alleged miscreant been locked up over so little: Demonstrating a shocking lack of common sense, police in Georgia recently arrested a man for "stealing" electricity from a school where he plugged his car in for 20 minutes during his son's tennis match.
Value of the allegedly stolen goods: 5 cents, according to one expert, though I'm sure your mileage may vary.
"He said that he was going to charge me with theft by taking because I was taking power, electricity from the school," Kaveh Kamooneh told a Georgia television station. Kamooneh says he had charged his car for 20 minutes, drawing about a nickel's worth of juice. Don Francis of Clean Cities Atlanta, an electric vehicle advocacy group, says the estimate of five cents is accurate.
"I'm not sure how much electricity he stole," said Chamblee police Sergeant Ernesto Ford, but he added: It doesn't matter. "He broke the law. He stole something that wasn't his."
Call me soft on crime if you like, but I'm thinking that a warning would have sufficed in this case. And, yes, I can imagine all kinds of scenarios where charging your car on someone else's dime might rise to the level of a crime. That's an issue that will need to be addressed as the use of electric cars grows.
But this isn't your test case.
While the police officer says he could have arrested Kamooneh right then and there, that's not what happened. Instead, the Chamblee police - having apparently eradicated real crime in their community -- actually "investigated" and once they discovered that Kamooneh did not have permission to plug in, went to his home and arrested him. Eleven days after the alleged theft. Made him do the perp walk. And the man spent more than 15 hours in county lockup. Yes, really.
Excessive though it may appear to some, the legal action is not unprecedented. A post about charging one's electric car without permission on EVelectricity.com notes: "You may want to ask as some car owners have reported being written up for stealing electricity. Sometimes it is better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission. Whatever approach you go with make sure you think it through."
Especially if you find yourself in Chamblee, Georgia.
Of course, Kamooneh is by no means the first to cadge an unauthorized charge for his car. A quick search finds this post by blogger Dave Dugdale that shows a Tesla owner copping an apparently unauthorized charge at Denver International Airport. "I hear that DIA actually does have spots for electric cars to charge up for free," Dugdale notes.
A commenter on that blog sees no big deal in the airport incident, but rather a possible unintended consequence:
It should just be considered part of the (parking) rate. It would be like going after the 5 cents of electricity people "steal" form the airport to plug their laptop into the wall at the gate (if they can find one). Honestly, I think the person who did this is lucky that the normal car thief roaming the lot doesn't know that extension cord is worth about $200.
Now what do you think would happen if you walked into the police headquarters in Chamblee, Georgia and reported the theft of a $200 extension cord?
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