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

By · December 04, 2013

Kamooneh

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 PluginCars.com) 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.

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