Should Nissan Leaf Driver Have Been Arrested For “Stealing” $.05 Worth Of Electricity From Public Outlet?

An Atlanta-area man admits that he didn’t have permission to charge up his Nissan Leaf outside a local middle school while waiting for his son to finish tennis practice on a Saturday, but he also believes he shouldn’t have been arrested for using about 5 cents worth of electricity from a publicly available outlet.

The man tells Atlanta’s Channel 11 [via Ars Technica] he’d had his Leaf plugged in for about 20 minutes when he was approached by a police officer.

“He said that he was going to charge me with theft by taking because I was taking power, electricity from the school,” recalls the driver.

But rather than ticket the man or arrest him then and there, the officer filed a report. It wasn’t until 11 days later that a pair of deputies showed up at his house to arrest him.

While police say they determined that the man didn’t have permission to charge his vehicle, they also admit they didn’t check with the school to see if it wanted to press charges against the driver.

And one police sergeant says the officer should have arrested the man at the time of the incident, and that it doesn’t matter about the low dollar value of the alleged theft.

“I’m not sure how much electricity he stole,” explains the sergeant. “He broke the law. He stole something that wasn’t his.”

The driver, who spent about 15 hours behind bars before being released, likens his supposed crime to someone being arrested for drinking water out of a tap.

“People charge laptops or cell phones at public outlets all the time, and no one’s ever been arrested for that,” he contends.

Did the police overreact in this incident? We have a feeling that part of the issue here is the lack of public understanding about how much electricity it takes to charge up an electric vehicle. After all, it takes a huge amount of cash to fill a tank with gasoline so it might make sense that charging an EV would also be costly. Thus, the officer may have assumed this man was getting away with stealing significantly more than five cents worth of juice.

We want to know what you think…

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.