Watch where you plug in your car

5 Dec 2013

A recent story about a man charging his electric car at his kid’s school in Georgia caught my attention.  On a Saturday, while watching his kid’s tennis practice, the man plugged his car into an outlet outside the school.  The following week, he found himself arrested and charged with a crime for the theft of 5 cents worth of electricity.

Could that happen here?  It is certainly possible.  Michigan has passed a number of laws in the last 5 years relating to the theft of electricity, or sale of electricity stolen, from a utility.  That crime could be a felony punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment and/or a $5,000 fine. There can also be misdemeanor charges for someone who takes electricity from a utility by avoiding a meter.

While this story has gotten a lot of press, it is not clear what crime the man has been charged with.  In Michigan, it might be larceny or conversion. In all likelihood, if a crime, it would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $500.00. That’s a big hit for 5 cents worth of electricity!

Given that electric cars are relatively new, the dynamics associated with charging them are clearly still developing.  In short, ask before you plug in or risk serious consequences.


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