Friday, December 6, 2013

Donning My Karnac Hat...

Joseph in IL sent this story in. On its face, it's patently ridiculous and moderately frightening.

Nissan Leaf owner arrested for taking 5 cents of energy without asking
Electric vehicles no longer count as spaceships of the road; last month alone, U.S. automakers sold about 10,000 vehicles with a plug, and a few like the Nissan Leaf have become commonplace. Unfortunately for those owners, the methods of charging such cars hasn't kept pace with their growth; there's only about 6,800 public charging stations nationwide, and it's not uncommon for an EV owner to have to ask for some spare juice.

But what happens if there's no one to ask? That's the trouble facing a Georgia man who was arrested and spent a night in jail — all for taking electricity worth about a nickel.
I suspect - and this is pure conjecture on my part here - that the issue wasn't so much that the person in question plugged his car in without asking, but how he responded to the police officer. There's a world of difference between the response to "Hey, pal, what's the deal here?" being "I'm just charging my car, officer, is there a problem?" versus "Don't you have robbers and murderers to catch?"

I have a very hard time believing that someone being cordial and polite would have police come to his door later on to arrest him for stealing electricity. Could it happen? Almost certainly. I just have a sneaking suspicion that the person in question's attitude was not sufficiently docile for the responding officer. Should this be the cause for an arrest versus a "knock it off"? That's a tough call.

In the most technical of senses, the man was stealing something. Would it make a difference if, rather than a middle school, he was parked outside a stranger's house charging his car off the stranger's outdoor electrical outlet? It's the same thing as someone with a pool running a hose to the neighbor's house to fill it so that they don't have to pay the water bill overages, really.

But it is worrisome that it was a public place. Assuming that this man lived in the town (since his kids were theoretically going to the school), there's a bit of a case to be made that since this was a public school, and his taxes go to fund the school, that he's got some claim to taking the electricity. I certainly wouldn't want to be the DA who had to prosecute someone for using electricity from a public building.

It will be interesting to see how this shakes out, certainly...

That is all.


Farm.Dad said...

I see it from the other side . I don't want MY taxes going to pay for that idiots coal burning, guilt ridden smugmobile . I don't care how many times it strands him and he has to walk home due to no charge . He made the choice to buy the damned thing now HE can deal with the consequences by his little own self . No charging station ... Well the answer is not steal things from the public , it is to get a different car , or bicycle , or walk .

Tango said...

I look at crimes from a non-financial standpoint. A person should be punished, regardless of the cost to enact that punishment. Now, that doesn't mean a full on arrest for 'stealing' a little electricity. I'd say that the school should have the option of taking them to small claims court and if the person is found wrong, they should pay the school's court costs (within reason). You don't get to hire a team of 17 lawyers at $300/hour to argue your case for that electricity.

I agree with FarmDad. If you buy it, you deal with the consequences. YOU bought it. I didn't make you. The public has to pay for it and if the public sues him and wins, it should be up to him to recompense the school for all charges incurred resulting from this incident.

Robb Allen said...

Joule thieves.

Dave H said...

I suspect somebody (either the school administration or the DA) decided to press charges to avoid setting a precedent. If you let someone get away with taking a nickel's worth of energy now, they'll take a dime's worth later. If left unchallenged it'll lead to human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!

Douglas2 said...

Other reports had the arrestee unrepentant and belligerent at the time of the event, which led to the officer on-scene filing a detailed report (largely to protect himself from potential complaint), but taking no action to arrest the man.
The supervisor reviewing the report contacted the school during normal hours after the weekend to see if the guy had permission to plug-in, and found out not only that he did not, but that he had been "banned" from the school grounds for being disruptive to school events on the tennis courts.

A Nissan Leaf 120v charger has a draw of 12A, or nearly 1500 Watts.

Yes, an hour's worth of charging might cost a dime -- depending upon utility costs. But the casual user of an outdoor outlet has no way of knowing what other loads might be on that electrical circuit, and the extra 12A of load could shut-down the whole circuit, cutting off computer servers, freezers, sump pumps, upflush toilets, incubators for the biology-classroom hatchery, or whatever. Just what you want to happen at a school on a Saturday morning, so that you can discover it the following Monday.

Anonymous said...

Are you stealing electricity when you plug in your laptop at the airport while you sit at the gate?

--why yes you are. And in European airports I've seen people called out for it. In US airports, not so much.

What about plugging it in while waiting in the airline lounge?

--nope, you paid a membership to use the lounge and they encourage you to plug in.

So in the absence of a sign saying it's ok, I'm going with theft. Granted that the enforcement and punishment seem heavy handed and out of proportion to the crime.

And I'm not gonna say that just being a taxpayer in the school district gives any rights to use it. There isn't any expectation of using the gym for a pickup basketball game, or borrowing the groundskeeping equipment to cut your grass.


Anonymous said...

“We received a 911 call advising that someone was plugged into the power outlet behind the middle school. The responding officer located the vehicle in the rear of the building at the kitchen loading dock up against the wall with a cord run to an outlet. The officer spent some time trying to determine whose vehicle it was. It was unlocked and he eventually began looking through the interior after verifying it did not belong to the school system.”

“The officer, his marked patrol vehicle and the electric vehicle were all in clear view of the tennis courts. Eventually, a man on the courts told the officer that the man playing tennis with him owned the vehicle. The officer went to the courts and interviewed the vehicle owner. The officer’s initial incident report gives a good indication of how difficult and argumentative the individual was to deal with. He made no attempt to apologize or simply say oops and he wouldn’t do it again. Instead he continued being argumentative, acknowledged he did not have permission and then accused the officer of having damaged his car door. The officer told him that was not true and that the vehicle and existing damage was already on his vehicles video camera from when he drove up.”

“Given the uncooperative attitude and accusations of damage to his vehicle, the officer chose to document the incident on an incident report. The report was listed as misdemeanor theft by taking. The officer had no way of knowing how much power had been consumed, how much it cost nor how long it had been charging.”

“The report made its way to Sgt Ford’s desk for a follow up investigation. He contacted the middle school and inquired of several administrative personnel whether the individual had permission to use power. He was advised no. Sgt. Ford showed a photo to the school resource officer who recognized Mr. Kamooneh. Sgt Ford was further advised that Mr. Kamooneh had previously been advised he was not allowed on the school tennis courts without permission from the school . This was apparently due to his interfering with the use of the tennis courts previously during school hours.”

“Based upon the totality of these circumstances and without any expert advice on the amount of electricity that may have been used, Sgt Ford signed a theft warrant. The warrant was turned over to the DeKalb Sheriffs Dept for service because the individual lived in Decatur, not Chamblee. This is why he was arrested at a later time.”

“I am sure that Sgt. Ford was feeling defensive when he said a theft is a theft and he would do it again. Ultimately, Sgt. Ford did make the decision to pursue the theft charges, but the decision was based on Mr. Kamooneh having been advised that he was not allowed on the property without permission. Had he complied with that notice none of this would have occurred. Mr. Kamooneh’s son is not a student at the middle school and he was not the one playing tennis. Mr. Kamooneh was taking lessons himself.”

Anonymous said...

I don't see watt everybody is so amped up about?


AndyN said...

If my real car is running low on fuel and the school has grounds keeping equipment or school buses unsecured, would I be allowed to help myself to a little gas? I think most people would recognize the idea as absurd, but it's effectively the same thing Kamooneh helped himself to.

Hafnhaf said...


i think you just won the internets! your award will be handed out on Coulombus Day.

Old NFO said...

Sounds to 'me' like it brought it on himself...

RabidAlien said...

Dude bought an electric car, he's responsible for charging it at his own house. If he forgot, that's his fault, and he can call for a tow or AAA to bring a charger, and pay for his forgetfulness himself. Plugging in where he had no right is the same as siphoning gas, no matter the cost. Its called "personal responsibility", and is apparently no longer taught to kids.

Chris said...

My guess is that, as the owner of a "Good for Gaia" car, he feels somewhat entitled (sorry for the use of profanity) to do whatever furthers his own interests. I've seen some studies that seem to lend credence to my observations of Leaf, Prius, etc. drivers.

Geodkyt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Geodkyt said...

Chris -- Agreed. I've read the peer-reviewed articles that confirm that.

Especially since he was already trespassing, having been BANNED from teh school tennis courts previously, because his entitlement attitude meant he interfered with the school's ability to use the courts for its own students during school hours.

Windy Wilson said...

Hmm, A theft is a theft, but de minimus non curat lex, the law does not trouble itself with trifles. I was thinking more like Trespass, where even technical trespasses are awarded damages. But if he really was such an a-hole to not only the school but to the investigating officer, this sounds more like disorderly conduct as well.

Windy Wilson said...

Anonymous 1:58, if you use the WiFi at the coffee house, are you stealing bandwidth? I think an argument can be made that with the widespread use of laptops while traveling the power usage is expected and included in your ticket even if you don't belong to the premium flyers' clubs.

The real question is whether the laws against theft include this clearly enough to give notice to someone so he would know not to do this, and I think the answer is yes.

TOTWTYTR said...

The article is wrong about no one being arrested for plugging in at an airport. As I recall, about five years ago someone was arrested at Charlotte-Douglass for doing just that.

Since he wasn't arrested right away in this case, I'd guess that there was some discussion before the decision was made.

I think it might have been a bit of an over reaction.