“Molesting A Vending Machine” Is Not What It Sounds Like

Sure, everyone giggled when they saw the headline that a man in Florida was arrested for “molesting [a] vending machine.” While you may have pictured a humiliated man caught performing unspeakable acts with a coin return slot, the real world is out to ruin the strange places where our imaginations go.

The real crime was more violent than that. Police say that a man was caught on surveillance video using a sledgehammer and an ax to force a vending machine open at a car wash in Daytona Beach. We assume that he was after money, because nobody brings a sledgehammer to harvest some free air fresheners. Police used evidence from that incident to arrest a man who was already a suspect in similar crimes against car wash vending machines. He has now been charged with felony criminal mischief and molesting a vending machine, and remains a suspect in the other car wash crimes.

The words in laws don’t always mean the same thing as in everyday life: people in Florida can also be charged with “shooting or throwing a missile into a vehicle,” which simply means throwing a thing into someone’s car. Any thing. Not a piece of artillery.

We generally use the word “molest” in the context of sex crimes against minors, but that isn’t what it means here. “Molest” simply means to interfere with the normal operation of the machine by damaging it or reaching inside to steal things. Here’s the actual statute:

Whoever maliciously or mischievously molests, opens, breaks, injures, damages, or inserts any part of her or his body or any instrument into any coin-operated vending machine or parking meter of another, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.

Okay, the “inserts any part of her or his body” part could get interesting, but in this case, “molesting” a vending machine just means tampering with it in some way.

Volusia man charged with molesting vending machine [News 13]

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