Rogue level 1 charging can be “theft” in some cases

Is rogue plugging into a 120 volt outlet a “theft”?  The news this week is full of shock over a man arrested for “stealing” 5 cents worth of electricity from his school.  As electric car owners we might be looking for any opportunity to plug in and charge, and an otherwise unused 120 volt outlet is very tempting.  I’ve done so plenty of times, but it’s really best to ask for permission first.  You never know how pedantically correct some organization is going to be over their electricity.

As I pointed out recently, I’d written a news item a few years of a man who had built an electric car but was being prevented from charging at work because the accountants couldn’t see a way to give him a perk (free fuel) and not offer the same perk to other employees.  It doesn’t matter how small the cost of the electricity is, some organizations have strict accounting rules.  Period.

In this case a man, Kaveh Kamooneh, was at Chamblee Middle School (near Atlanta) watching his 11-year-old son playing tennis on a Saturday morning.  A police officer arrived, took a report, and apparently threatened arrest.  That arrest came 11 days later, and Mr. Kamooneh ended up spending 15 hours in jail and paying a fine, over 5 cents worth of electricity.

Cue the outrage.

Except this is a teaching moment, and there is another matter of a recently released statement from the Police Department.

NEMA-5-outlet-300x232

The learning that can be taken is – first, know that you have permission before plugging in.  If it’s a public charging station, there is obviously permission.  But a 120 volt outlet on an exterior wall is another matter.  Taking without permission is theft, even for 5 cents.

Another learning is about the value of even level 1 charging.  Clearly it’s important enough to cause a large furor in the electric vehicle owners community.  The government officials and charging networks planning the charging infrastructure are all focused on level 2 charging.  And while level 2 charging itself is highly valuable, level 1 charging is great for many circumstances, and because of its low cost could be made ubiquitous pretty quickly.  I went over this in the blog post linked above.

It would be much better for all involved to have power outlets that are clearly meant to be used in charging electric cars.  It’s not that difficult of a thing to do, but organizations have to choose to do so.

Is the whole story the one Mr. Kamooneh told us?  Hardly.  As always, there are two sides to the story and the truth might be somewhere in the middle.  Going by the statement released from the police department, Mr. Kamooneh was abusive towards the police officer and claimed the officer had damaged his car.  The conversation between them escalated, but that wasn’t enough for an arrest.  The officer’s sergeant did learn that the school had previously told Mr. Kamooneh to not use the power outlet, and it was then that he signed the warrant.

The statement with H/T to InsideEVs
“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.”

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

Leave a Reply