published Thursday, December 5th, 2013

Electric car driver's arrest in Georgia sparks debate on charging vehicles

  • photo
    An electric car sits outside of the TVA building on Broad Street at the charging station.
    Photo by Jenna Walker /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

CHAMBLEE, Ga. — A motorist who plugged his electric car into an outlet at a school near Atlanta is facing a theft charge, sparking debate about where and when it's acceptable to use power.

Kaveh Kamooneh of Decatur tells WXIA-TV that he charged his Nissan Leaf for 20 minutes, drawing about a nickel's worth of electricity while playing tennis at Chamblee Middle School last month. It resulted in a 15-hour jail stay.

Chamblee Police Chief Marc Johnson tells The Associated Press that the outlet was not a charging station.

"It's no different from him pulling up in your carport and saying, 'Hey, I see an outlet,'" the police chief said Thursday.

But the case is drawing plenty of debate from owners of electric cars and others, many of whom are criticizing police.

Johnson said Thursday that he's received emails approaching about 700 including "probably 15 that were positive."

Chris Campbell of the Electric Vehicle Club says he hadn't heard of such a case before.

"It's stunning that somebody would get arrested for 5 cents of electricity," Campbell told WSB-TV.

Kamooneh acknowledges that he didn't ask permission to charge the car. "When I got there, there was nobody there. It was a Saturday morning," he told WXIA.

"He wasn't supposed to have been there to start with," the police chief said.

When a Chamblee police sergeant contacted Chamblee Middle School later, a school resource officer said Kamooneh was not allowed on the school tennis courts without permission from school employees.

"This was reportedly due to his interference with the use of the tennis courts previously during school hours," Chamblee police said in a statement.

Kamooneh says he is scheduled to face a judge in February.

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