In (Jail) For A Penny

Prison: not just for criminals anymore.

What's a police state?  Whole academic conferences have argued over the definition, but a good rule of thumb is: a place where an ordinary person can be thrown in jail for doing something that no ordinary person would think was a crime.

A Georgia man discovered the hard way that he didn't live in the sort of country he thought he lived in:

Police in Georgia recently arrested a man for "stealing" electricity from a school where he plugged his car in for 20 minutes during his son's tennis match...

"He said that he was going to charge me with theft by taking because I was taking power, electricity from the school," Kaveh Kamooneh told a Georgia television station. Kamooneh says he had charged his car for 20 minutes, drawing about a nickel's worth of juice. Don Francis of Clean Cities Atlanta, an electric vehicle advocacy group, says the estimate of five cents is accurate...

The Chamblee police - having apparently eradicated real crime in their community -- actually "investigated" and once they discovered that Kamooneh did not have permission to plug in, went to his home and arrested him. Eleven days after the alleged theft. Made him do the perp walk. And the man spent more than 15 hours in county lockup.

Electricity rates are going up; we elected a president who promised that they would.  They're still pretty cheap, though; it's not physically possible for an ordinary electric outlet to provide more than a tiny amount of electricity.  That's why most electric cars have special cables to connect to high-voltage jacks so it doesn't take all week to get a full "tank."

Here's a cop who has so little to do that he performed a full investigation and arrest, including the "perp walk," over a nickel's worth of juice!

Many Internet commentators feel that the cop was totally off his rocker and that the prosecution will surely be quashed.  Maybe so, but the prosecutor has ample precedent to present to the court: arresting people for plugging into open electrical outlets is not uncommon.  Yes, the arrestees are usually homeless people whom everybody wants off the streets and nobody cares about, but the law is supposed to be blind.  If a vagrant can be made to serve time for plugging in his cellphone, so, in theory, should the wealthy owner of a new and trendy electric car regardless of its green virtues.

Let's not stop there.  Have you ever grabbed a few extra ketchup packets from McDonald's to take home for future use, or maybe some napkins to stock in your glove compartment?  That's "theft" just as surely as the juice-jacking incidents above - those materials were put there for your use with the food you just bought, not for you to stockpile for later.

Logically, there ought to be a common-sense limitation.  We all understand that if you hijack a ketchup tank-truck heading towards McDonald's, that's a felony - Grand Theft Auto.  If you swipe a whole keg of ketchup, that too is a crime, but probably not as serious a one.  Detectives will chase down the missing 18-wheeler, not so much the keg.  Can you imagine a cop going after you for a couple of napkins?

The problem is that our laws have lost all sense of proportion, sanity, or natural justice.  There are more and more horror stories of people thrown into prison for "crimes" they can barely understand even after detailed explainations, much less known about beforehand.  Pity the poor shop owner imprisoned for two years for purchasing lobsters in plastic bags as opposed to the required cardboard boxes even though the law hadn't taken effect when the supposed "crime" occurred.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, of course, we see high-powered elites violate all kinds of laws and never even get a call from the police; Mr. Obama's cabinet appointees are notorious for being unprosecuted felons.  Then there are the banksters who appear to have fradulently filed foreclosure paperwork; none of them are behind bars either, not even close.

What happens when ordinary citizens are locked up for nothing but the well-connected get away with massive fraud?  Put another way, what happens when "the rule of law" no longer applies to everyone equally?

A congressional committee asked that question of the Cato Institute's Michael Cannon recently, and his response was sobering.

There is one last thing to which the people can resort if the government does not respect the restraints that the constitution places on the government.  Abraham Lincoln talked about our right to alter our government or our revolutionary right to overthrow it.  That is certainly something that no one wants to contemplate.  If the people come to believe that the government is no longer constrained by the laws then they will conclude that neither are they.

That is a very dangerous sort of thing for the president to do, to wantonly ignore the law, to try to impose obligations upon people that the legislature did not approve.  [emphasis added]

No American legislature passed a law prescribing jailtime for putting lobsters in plastic bags; an administrative agency in another country did.  No legislature created the crime of Grand Theft Electricity.  No legislature granted provisional green cards to youthful illegal immigrants; Mr. Obama did that on his own, both before and after saying that he couldn't.

Yes, Obamacare was passed by the legislature, sort of, allowing for massive legislative fraud and bribery.  As awful as the bill was, however, it did not gave Mr. Obama the authority to whistle up delays or exemptions out of thin air.

Yet he's delayed the requirement for companies to buy health insurance for all employees by a year, refused to delay the requirement for individual people to have insurance even though the website selling those individual insurance policies doesn't work, and granted exemptions from the entire mess to hundreds of politically-connected unions and donors' companies.

The net result is exactly what Cannon observed: people clearly see that there's one oppressive, impossible, illogical, obscure, bankrupting, and inconceivably harsh law for them, and "anything goes" for government lifers and bigshots.

Historically, that leads to revolutions.  Is that what Mr. Obama wants?  If any of us peasants can be imprisoned on the whim of an arrogant bureaucrat, well, sooner or later enough people will decide they'd rather take a chance with force of arms.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Law.
Reader Comments

The revolution is already here. We are fighting it with words at present, but I am worried that it may take a turn for the violent side all too soon.

There is much activity that is not made public, that is in defiance of the government(s) that think they are in control. Mayhem is the norm for most cities in this nation. The criminal element that plays the "knockout game" is part of the mayhem, and it is born of hate promoted by the man who promised that he would unite us. Murders are committed by police departments around the nation, with no punishment for the murderer. Yet, we have governments that want more police.

There were 40,000 laws passed in this nation in 2011 alone. That creates an atmosphere wherein everyone is a criminal and viewed as such by the police and the whole of the Criminal Justice System. And it is exactly that - a CRIMINAL justice system.

We will be forced to fight or continue in the condition we're in, and complain of the condition. Scragged is part of the Revolution. It is bringing us together. The readers and contributors may disagree with the method we use to revolutionize our government, but we seem to agree on the fact that a Revolution is necessary.

Keep up the good work. Peace, Robert Walker

December 12, 2013 1:53 PM

Absolutely! I have been wondering if that is his end-goal. He's probably amazed and maybe even perplexed that he keeps getting away with so much, and most likely wondering what he has to do to get the people to rise up.

December 12, 2013 1:58 PM

Laws are passed so the state can bring control over the people. Most times they are ill-thought out and wreak havoc in unintended ways. When you have the power of the gun you can pretty much do what you want to do. Did anyone with 1/10 of a working brain really believe that obamacare would reduce your annual medical bill by $2500? That you could put 30,000,000 people into the medical system and not have rationing? More laws are not what we need but an eradication of existing laws. I personally think that a jury should be able to figure out if someone has done someone wrong and come up with a verdict. The jury should consist of peers and not rigged juries as they are today by the lawyers and no one should sit on a jury unless he/she pays taxes. The are responsibilities that citizens should bear and that is to be a producer and make one's own way. If you can't then you should have no say whatsoever in government. To turn over our courts to imbeciles is a wide road to perdition. Less laws = more freedom.

December 16, 2013 5:02 PM

The people are rising up! There is a nationwide rally to restore the Constitution in the works. You can find it on facebook. Take a look at it, like it, and organize a rally in your area.

Bassboat is correct. We must repeal unjust laws. There are several ways of doing just that, short of actual legislative activity. One way is to nullify at the State level, and more information can be found at the tenth amendment center. Another way is jury nullification. More information can be found at .

Peace, Robert Walker

December 16, 2013 7:13 PM


We may be in small numbers today but you can't repel the laws of economic and justice. We are in the right. BB

December 16, 2013 7:48 PM
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