“Theft of power” raises a very tricky question


Ok… read the article first: “‘Theft of power’ lands electric-car driver in jail”… then come on back here.

I’m pretty certain I don’t have the entire story here. There are several things missing. For instance -- Was this an emergency for Kaveh Kamooneh? Because that could change things significantly. Oh… yeah… probably not enough that I wouldn’t still be chuckling at Mr. Kamooneh for heading to the park without enough battery power to return. But often when details start getting added to an event, with some of them not so every-day-ordinary in nature, you can at least tip your cap and move on without think this is just nutty.

Overall, I think there is enough information to assume that running on empty wasn’t a problem though. And, that emergency option out of the way, I can’t agree with him. Check out this passage from the story:

But Kamooneh said he believes he committed no crime. He said in his experience as an electric car driver, seeking permission was often an informal exchange and that he had never encountered a problem before.

“Of course I agree that theft is theft, what I don’t agree with is that every taking of something without permission is theft,” he said, adding that there was no one at the school to ask permission from at the time.

How many of us have found ourselves in the situation of running out of gas? Virtually all of us I would imagine. And even for those of us that haven’t, I’d wager that a warning light or two… coupled with heavy traffic, an unfamiliarity of the surrounding area, and concern on whether or not the car would get to a gas station before running out… has provided some tense moments of driving.

And during these moments, some wonderful examples of compassion may be found.

Perhaps it’s the person that owns the house your car stops near, and he offers you a gallon or two of gas from the canister in the garage… more than enough to get you to the gas station, and he refuses to accept a penny in return.

Maybe it’s the person that pulls up next to your car, asks if you’re ok, and then gives you a ride not only to a gas station… but after you get a can and some gas, also goes out of her way to drive you back to your car.

And such examples of wonderful people bring up a couple of thoughts.

First of all, in general the “informal exchange” that Kamooneh seems to be describing usually is created in a time of need. I don’t have much experience driving an electric car… and as such maybe I’m missing something… but I’m having a hard time imagining many drivers casually asking for a gallon of gas to top off the tank. They don’t need the gas, but heck, just in case and I happen to be here, maybe someone will give me a gallon or two to toss in the tank. Convert that to topping off the charge on the batteries. Even if we accept the concept that limited driving ranges might make it worth the effort to always get the batteries up to a full charge when possible, it appears to be that in this case Kamooneh didn’t need the charge.

Secondly, I can’t accept the justification involved here. Let’s go back to my examples of compassion. Because a great guy offered me gas when I ran out… or someone gave me a ride when I needed some help… does that give me the right to assume such assistance is forthcoming in every scenario?

Because for Kaveh Kamooneh, it very much does.

And that is where I begin to have a problem with this situation.

Let’s just recap here…

Item one – Kamooneh claims to understand what theft is. (“‘Of course I agree that theft is theft…’”)

Item two – From the article, Kamooneh seems to indicate he did not have permission from anyone to plug in his vehicle to charge. (“‘…I don’t agree… that every taking of something without permission is theft…’”)

Item three – Someone felt strongly enough about what they had witnessed that they contacted the police.

Points one, two and three… there they are.

We live in a world where common sense isn’t all that common. And that’s a frightening enough thought to begin with. But beyond the general polite possibilities, for purposes of this situation that means you simply cannot always believe permission is universally granted or justified. Believing otherwise is more a sense of entitlement that quite often is not only undeserved, it is dynamically and incredibly undeserved.

If no one was at the school so he could ask permission, then he shouldn’t be plugging in his car to charge. (In exactly the same way, if his gasoline-fueled car ran out, then he shouldn’t be walking up the first driveway and if no one is home decide it must be ok to syphon a gallon out of a car in that driveway.)

It really is that simple.

The amount of electricity used… the cost… isn’t in the least bit relevant as a defense. That’s simply justifying his actions… harsh as the terms may sound in this case… it’s justifying the crime.

And even with that said… I certainly might be misunderstanding things. So… give me more details.

Tell me he had to rush to get his son to tennis practice, realized upon arriving at the school that he didn’t have enough power to return home, looked and looked for someone to ask, and eventually plugged in his car out of desperation… and I’m listening.

Tell me he offered to pay the school for the electricity… and I’m listening.

We just don’t get that here.

According to the article, he didn’t even stay with the vehicle. The notes say that in the report filed, the police officer originally couldn’t find the owner.

The story has all the makings of entitlement -- of (my words) “…well, I’m here and will be for a bit, so I might as well charge the battery…” -- and Kamooneh doesn’t see the issue.

Please… help me see something beyond entitlement here… help me see some justification.

Otherwise, there really is no defense for Kamooneh. Theft is theft... and, as every detail continues to show, this is.


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com