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A Georgia man has been charged with theft after charging his electric car at his son's middle school -- and sucking up 5 cents' worth of electricity.
Kaveh Kamooneh, 50, had parked his Nissan Leaf outside Chamblee Middle School and began charging the car using an exterior outlet at the school while his 11-year-old played tennis, Atlanta's WXIA-TV reports. Moments later, a police officer appeared and informed Kamooneh that he would be charged with theft.
Is using a nickel's worth of power really a crime?
'Theft Is Theft'
Sgt. Ernesto Ford of the Chamblee Police Department told WXIA that it didn't matter how much or how little electricity Kamooneh allegedly stole, "[a] theft is a theft."
In some ways, Ford is right. Georgia law defines theft as the:
The value of the property that is stolen doesn't come into play unless the property is valued over $500, in which case the theft is considered a felony. Despite the fact that Kamooneh only siphoned approximately 5 cents' worth of juice from the Chamblee Middle School, he did it without permission and had no intention (or method) to give it back.
Despite the evidence of theft, a prosecutor could easily drop the theft charges for something so minor. However, other states have chosen to prosecute citizens for theft of literally a handful of change.
Where Can You Charge?
Kamooneh acknowledges that he didn't ask permission before plugging his car into the outlet, reports WXIA. But is plugging into an outlet in a public place (like a public school parking lot) necessarily stealing?
Ask Darren Kersey, a Florida homeless man who was arrested in 2012 for using the electrical outlet at a picnic shelter in a public park to charge his cell phone. Florida, like many states, has laws against theft of public utilities (water, gas, electricity, etc.), but these crimes typically refer to tampering with meters in order to cheat the city out of free utilities.
Like Kersey, Kamooneh was using an outlet on public property, but there is no clear indication about when that power can be used -- or by whom.
DeKalb County court records indicate that Kamooneh (listed as "Kaveh Kamooney") is out on a $100 bond for his theft charge. His arraignment is set for February.