Nissan LEAF Owner Put Behind Bars Over Unapproved 20-Minute Charge

By · December 04, 2013


Kaveh Kamooneh was charged with “theft by taking without consent” after plugging in for a 20-minute charge at a local middle school.

A Georgia man spent more than 15 hours in DeKalb County Jail on theft charges after police determined that he had stolen electricity from a local school when he briefly used an outlet there to charge his Nissan LEAF as his son played tennis. Kaveh Kamooneh was eventually charged with “theft by taking without consent” 11 days after the incident, when police showed up at his house and led him away to jail.

The estimated value of the electricity Kamooneh “stole”? Depending upon utility rates, it was likely less than five cents. That’s of no consequence to Chamblee Police, who told local media that they pursue all incidents of taking without permission, regardless of the value of what’s been taken. “A theft is a theft,” said Chamblee police Sergeant Ernesto Ford.

In an appearance on Atlanta’s 11Alive local news broadcast, Kamooneh argued that taking small amounts of water or electricity without permission is a common practice. People regularly plug in their cell phones, tablets or laptops without asking at a variety of public places, utilizing similar quantities of electricity. Furthermore, the school district says it was never asked by police whether it supported filing charges against the LEAF owner.

Norman Hajjar, managing director of the research firm PlugInsights, said that the case highlights a common disconnect between new technologies and their socially acceptable uses. “With new tech innovations come equally new definitions of what is considered polite, or for that matter, legal,” said Hajjar. “It was true when gas cars first came on the scene over a century ago, and it's true today with things like cell phones, Google Glass, electric vehicles and more. We eventually develop new social rules and laws, but they always seem to lag a little behind technology.”

Hajjar said his firm (owned by Recargo, which also operates has been studying electric vehicle etiquette and has found that many of the “rules of the road” are still in flux. “Regardless, if the facts of this case are correct, being arrested for a nickel's worth of electricity seems beyond reason,” he said. “Hopefully, charges will be dropped.”

Though it’s always best to get permission before plugging in to an outlet, it’s hard to imagine that the public wouldn’t have been better served—and likely saved a bit on public funds and police resources—if Kamooneh had been let off with a warning. He told 11Alive News that he intends to fight the charges and that other potential legal avenues are also under consideration.


· · 4 years ago

Rumors are that Kamooneh was previously told that he was not permitted to plug his vehicle into these outlets.

If that is true, continuing to use the outlet was the wrong thing to do, but arrest wasn't the right solution. As the property owner, the school district could have requested that he be excluded from the property for a period of time, as with most small theft this is how places like grocery stores usually handle it.

· · 4 years ago

Absolutely amazing and horrifying all at once. Would someone who walked up to the same outlet and plugged in their smart phone be also thrown into the slammer?

· · 4 years ago

The real crime here is Nissan for selling a car that people feel the need to plug in at all outlets. Hopefully they will increase there batteries size as they said there going to do.

· · 4 years ago

Several years ago I stopped at a church to opportunity charge my eMax vespa style electric scooter because it was very low on charge and I was still a couple miles from home. The custodian harassed me about it, even though I patiently explained that the cost of the electricity was less than two cents and that I would be happy to make a donation to the church. The guy was really incensed. It was irksome mostly because it was so petty.

While waiting for the charge, I wrote a check for $5 and a letter explaining that I would like the funds to be used by the church to "assist any travelers requiring a charge for an electric bike, scooter or car". I also mentioned that $5 would likely cover the next 250 people who needed help. I put a one line memo to that effect on the back of the check below the signature line. The church cashed the check, hopefully it created a little more Christian goodwill toward EVers.

· · 4 years ago

Well, this guy is wrong. He did "STEAL".

Sure, the amount he stole was very small and amount of "waste" generated from his arrest probably more than out-weight the "crime".

But at the end of the day, it is a stealing. If someone drives up to a gas station and fill up about $0.05 worth of gas and left without paying, he would have been charged.

If someone walk up to a public library and took a book (regardless of how cheap), it would have been stealing.

The fact is that NO plugin owners should ASSUME that any public outlets are "free" to use without getting permission from the property owner. That is wrong. I hope that one BAD Leaf owner doesn't create a bad image for all plugin owners.

Now, let us talk about the action of police department. They could have easily cite the guy for a much lesser crime than arrest. However, I think some one has an axe to grind and is trying to make a point here.

Let this be a lesson for plug in owners. Follow the law and don't assume electricity is free for you to take without permission. ASK before you do. The last thing we need is a bad image for the EV community.

· · 4 years ago

"Would someone who walked up to the same outlet and plugged in their smart phone be also thrown into the slammer?"

If the owner of the property complains, then yes.

· · 4 years ago

I think they are also trying to make an example out of this.

If 1 person does that, then another EV owner can do it as well. Pretty soon, there will be a bunch of them doing it at school's expense...

How much does trash services cost? Most places would NOT allow you to dump your household trash a store or commercial dumpster unless it is designed for public use.

· · 4 years ago

I wish all the news coverage would show the real detail on how STUPID this thief is.

He deserves NO sympathy from the plugin community for what he did. He is a "joule thief"....

· · 4 years ago

I have mixed feelings on this one... He leased the LEAF, and an early adopter as the 2011 Award decal in the top left of the rear window, so he obviously knows the range, 110v charge time and how it equates to millage gained. He was at his sons school (usually within 10miles from a residence) so he should have no issues going to and from without needing the 20mins. Regardless of what was plugged in, public education of "True Cost" to charge any device, a Cell phone, Laptop or EV...The general public as well as our governing officials do not have the knowledge. He should of NOT plugged in because his knowledge would of told him that would be just 1-2miles of range...and not absolutely needed.

Now for the law enforcement, the officer who was wrote the citation he was obviously either bored, or so confused that he did not want to confront the indivdual. He should of confronted the owner to question and possibly encourge him to un-plug and if he didnt it could lead to a citation, but he didnt. Failure on the cop at this point. The 11 day turn-around for the arrest is histarical, i can only imagine that office running around trying to figure out a way to arrest this guy with looking into rules, regulations and electricity theft. The LT of that department needs to up his education on Electric cars as Georgia is a high EV state, and is very common for cars to be plugged in.

All in All I knew this day would come where, US...EV Owners, Will be put in the spotlight for theft. The correct thing for this LEAF Owner to do now is to volunteer his time, educate the school and police department on EV's, the usefulness and cost effectiveness of the cars with the "True Cost" to charge. Alot of enthusiastic EV Owners are all for educating and talking cars/technology with anyone. If Mr. Kamooneh is in this mold, he will take the time to help everyone else out. Who knows, the school may dedicate a spot (or 2) near that receptical for EV's

· · 4 years ago

WMA's, bundled high risk house loans that crash the economy, failed automobile companies that require billions to be bailed out, humongous ponzi schemes, and now this. What is this country coming to?

Remember common man, your sins are the worst. You should be ashamed that you exist.

· · 4 years ago

This is ridiculous, who cares that he was told by the School not to be on school property using the tennis courts, his kid didn't go to that school, or that he gave the cop a hard time and accused him of damaging his car. If he needed to charge his car. He needed to charge his car. Justin H is totally right. The cops didn't have anything else to do, and it is totally an education issue. They just need to accept that EV drivers need electricity, and will take it when needed.

· · 4 years ago

Don't take a sip from any drinking fountains, MMF. If it's not as public as you might have thought, the Fuzz might come and lock you up for stealing water . . . and I'm not springing bail for you! :-)

Then again, brotherkenny4 might visit you in jail and read Biblical passages to you through the cell bars.

· · 4 years ago

Ben, you beat me to the point. MMF, what happened to the concept of proportionality? Would you deny a traveler a sip from your garden hose? That would be theft too.

· · 4 years ago

This cheapskate is an embarrassment to EV owners. If he was plugged in for only 20 minutes on a trickle charge, he did not "need" to charge his car and gained very little from it. Nobody I know in the EV community "takes" power anywhere when needed. We plug in at home, use the public charging stations, or in a pinch have plugged in at a business and paid them for using the outlet. Unfortunately, one idiot making national news sets us all back. Justin H. is right--keep on educating.

· · 4 years ago

It's not so much that I'm standing up for Mr. Kamooneh without hesitation. If he was warned not to use the outlet previously and didn't really need to top off then, yes, he probably got what he deserved. Then again, a lot of these small town police departments are all to quick to hand out citations for any sort of questionable infraction so they can justify their budgets. There's probably a lot of blame to go around and the devil, as they say, is in the details . . .
a small town scandal that, in an earlier day, would have stayed in the local papers. But today, thanks to the internet, everyone knows about it.

I just had to retort to MMF's sanctimonious ramblings here (spread over 4 separate posts, no less,) in what I hope is perceived as a non-hostile and possibly humorous fashion. I asked him once if he ever received a moving traffic violation for his "need for speed," but never got an answer. My guess is that his life has been as impure as the rest of us here, if not for peeing on someone's hubcaps as a teenager, then for regularly breaking speed limits in his electric car as an adult. Time for all of us, perhaps, to get over ourselves.

· · 4 years ago


Feel free to defend a jerk who has tarnished the image of EV community. He was TOLD NOT TO DO IT and he had a chance to avoid it by unpluggin when the officer asked him to.

Chamblee is NO small city. It is a major surburb of Atlanta. A Metro area with over 6 Million people.

If someone told ME NOT to drink from the fountain, I won't do it.

Yes, I have speed tickets and I deserved it. In this case, that guy deserved it.

I also have let go by police for speeding. But this guy was a prick for arguing with the police officer. So, he was stupid as well. If you want to defend stupid LEAF owners, then go ahead...

Some EV owners have large egos too. Since they are early adopters, they think they are above all and everyone should accomendate them for their petty charging need.

Why don't you read the link on exactly what happened before you defend that jerk.

· · 4 years ago

Yes, I have ranted about this guy after so many clueless EV supporters defended this jerk for "STEALING" while NOT knowing the whole story.

He has done more damage to the EV community than anyone else.

I have NO desire in supporting jerks like him.

· · 4 years ago

Yes, I have ranted about this guy after so many clueless EV supporters defended this jerk for "STEALING" while NOT knowing the whole story.

He has done more damage to the EV community than anyone else.

I have NO desire in supporting jerks like him.

· · 4 years ago

“A theft is a theft,” said Chamblee police Sergeant Ernesto Ford

Meanwhile, rapists and murderers are walking free and known fugitives remain at large because the police "don't have the budget to pursue it". Sgt. Ernesto Ford should be ashamed to be tied to such a ridiculous quote after leading a man away in handcuffs for such a menial crime. What's next, a SWAT team for kids selling lemonade illegally?

If Mr. Kamooneh was told previously not to plug in, he should have been cited. If it was his first offense, he should have received a warning. End of story.

· · 4 years ago


You need to lighten up a little. I'm sure this isn't the first or last EV owner who has poached some electricity. The whole industry is still evolving, as are the rules, laws and social norms. I'm not advocating theft of anything, but I highly doubt this guy has damaged the reputation of EV owners. Even Fox News thought it was ridiculous and they generally hate on EVs.

· · 4 years ago

"He has done more damage to the EV community than anyone else."

Really? Who ranks number 2, 3, 4 and 5?

No, I'm only kidding . . . don't answer that. Let's all just please let this thread quietly die and move on. I hope not to read a followup story on Mr. Kamooneh's plight. There's enough real EV news out there to ponder.

· · 4 years ago

Weighing two bits of questionable behavior with no real information beyond the headlines, I come down on the side of the LEAF owner for now. It sounds like he was just being silly (20 mins. L1 isn't really worth unpacking your EVSE, is it?), while the cops were being disproportionately heavy-handed to the point of bullying (stopping to investigate at all was wasteful enough, but I think bothering to formally charge him and making a special trip days later to take Kamooneh into custody is itself worthy of investigation). I could be convinced otherwise if I had evidence of Mr. Kamooneh being a total PitA when politely asked by a policeman to unplug, then subsequently ignoring a court summons. But absent some pretty outrageous behavior along those lines by Mr. Kamooneh, I think this comes very close to misconduct and abuse of authority.

Physically taking someone into custody is a very serious matter; much can go wrong, and it's a risk police officers have no business taking over such trivia. Chamblee PD's claim that they "pursue all incidents of taking without permission, regardless of the value of what’s been taken" doesn't pass the laugh test.

· · 4 years ago

Thinking less generously, something this seemingly out of line raises a couple of questions in my mind:

- Did the PD's actions have anything to do with the radical anti-EV agenda of someone in authority?

- Did bigotry play any role in the initial encounter between Kammoneh and the policeman?

If you think these concerns are overkill for an incident like this, isn't overkill kind of the problem in the first place?

· · 4 years ago

"Weighing two bits of questionable behavior with no real information beyond the headlines"

Well, don't.

There are plenty of details from both sides...

· · 4 years ago

Point was also made that retailers routinely "trespass" customers suspected of shoplifting. I can attest to that as the retailer I work for typically (even after catching someone price tag switching afairly expensive item, eg)writes up a report and advises the "customer" that they are not to come back into the store again. This LEAF driver sholdl have just agreed to unplug(after the first warning) and not plugged in again later. But, arresting someone is so over the top that it suggests an "agenda" by the local police that has nothing to do with taking $.05 electricity. Oh, by the way, maybe he had planned to be there for 1-2 hours. In that case he might have recouped 4-8 miles of range. If I was sitting in my EV, had a chance to juice up for 4-8 mles while I was waiting, I'd do it. But I would make sure it was OK to do it first.

· · 4 years ago

Everyone, please find something worthwhile to do with your time, and this includes the police who though this was a good idea. When I was growing up, the local policeman was one who solved problems, rather than caused them and if this solution or path is a demonstration of their skill set, they should perhaps try some other field in the working world.

· · 4 years ago

Everyone, please find something worthwhile to do with your time, and this includes the police who thought this was a good idea. When I was growing up, the local policeman was one who solved problems, rather than caused them and if this solution or path is a demonstration of their skill set, they should perhaps try some other field in the working world.

· · 4 years ago

I was reacting to what I read here, which did not provide much in the way of details about the incident. An article at an Atlanta TV station provides considerably more information and relevant context:

While Kamooneh's behavior didn't include ignoring a summons (about the only reason I could think of for arresting him), the rest of the story does contain some of the mitigating factors I'd mentioned, as well as aggravating ones (at least in terms of how I view the Chamblee PD's conduct).

What wound up being pretty important in the way things shook out was that Kamooneh was NOT there watching his son do anything; he was there with an instructor getting tennis lessons for himself. Worse, since he had apparently done this before and interfered with students and/or other authorized users of the courts (Kamooneh is not a resident of Chamblee), he had been asked to leave the facilities and not return.

While the school made a point of saying that it did not press charges, the original story did not mention that the officer was on the scene responding to a call to the police about a vehicle hooked up to an outlet without permission; the responding officer did not know how long the vehicle had been there. I don't know the physical layout, so perhaps it was a nosy neighbor with line of sight to the area who didn't like Kamooneh's looks, but it seems more likely this call was placed by someone at the school. In any case, this wasn't a cop on patrol just looking for someone to hassle.

But the officer then entered the car and sat in it to conduct a search, ostensibly to determine who owned it and why it was there; this was apparently okay because he found the car unlocked (a lesson in that for all of us, I'm sure). I'm not sure what this was supposed to accomplish beyond what could have been achieved by running the plates, aside from giving the officer a flimsy excuse to "accidentally" encounter any contraband (if Kamooneh happened to have some weed in the glove compartment, this would have gone a lot worse for him, but we'd probably never have heard the story). Bad as this sounds, it gets worse when you consider that it took place within sight of the tennis courts where Kamooneh was taking his lesson. Another player noticed the policeman and told him that the owner was right here, at which point the encounter between Kamooneh and the officer occurred.

I'm not surprised that Kamooneh was pretty aggravated at this point; I know I wouldn't be too thrilled to find a policeman rummaging around in my parked car. But while being peeved he sort of forgot that he wasn't supposed to be there at all, and reportedly let himself get testy with the officer. We don't have any more details on that, but this is a point at which there could have been any amount of jerky behavior by Kamooneh and/or the policeman; we'll probably never know exactly in what ratio or of what nature. Arguing with American cops is never a good idea, though - out came the pad, and Kamooneh left with a citation.

The Chamblee PD sergeant handling the ticket called the school and learned the additional background information regarding Kamooneh's history at the tennis courts, and figured this was just too much to ignore. Unfortunately, Kamooneh (not a resident of Chamblee, remember) was outside the Chamblee PD's jurisdiction, so an arrest warrant was issued to have the sheriff's office pick Kamooneh up at his home.

Basically, if Kamooneh hadn't mouthed off at the officer and just politely apologized and unplugged the car, he probably wouldn't have been written up. If it hadn't been discovered that he was trespassing at the school tennis courts, the Chamblee sergeant probably wouldn't have issued the arrest warrant. Surprised by a reporter, the sergeant gave a rather lame excuse for all this (the laughable "a theft is a theft no matter how small" explanation) mainly because he was being put on the spot and felt he hadn't done anything wrong, but inadvertently just threw more fuel on the fire. And naturally all the press filters sliced and diced this into the attention-grabbing "jailed for stealing a nickel's worth of electrons" headlines we finally got.

Nobody's covered in glory here. Kamooneh should have had the good sense to avoid any of a series of bad decisions along the way to that night in a jail cell. The police shouldn't be looking for excuses to invade private vehicles, and they should be a lot slower to take people into custody over this kind of nonsense.

· · 4 years ago

The school and police simply didn't believe the guy when he told them it costs only pennies to charge the car. That's why they foolishly charged him with a $25-$100 theft for the 5 cent session. That's the typical price of a gas station drive-off theft. Despite the policeman's bravado stating he would arrest him again, that police department will never arrest another person for doing this.

· · 4 years ago

Meanwhile, taxpayers are out hundreds of thousands in administrative and court costs...


Both sides should just shut up and say "yeah we both let it spin too far out of reason, and we're sorry", then just go back to their daily business.

Police can abuse their authority just as much as a person can abuse their welcome on public property.

· · 4 years ago

He should have asked before plugging in.
He should have complied with the schools request to stay off of the property.
He did not need to be argumentative with the officer.
It would appear that the arrest had more to do with attitude than with theft.

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