How Underpaying For A Bottle Of Mountain Dew Led To Felony Charges

A 38-year-old man in Pennsylvania has already spent seven days behind bars after underpaying for Mountain Dew at an Exxon gas station in Duncannon, Pennsylvania, according to Penn Live. Joseph Sobolewski might still be in jail had the terms of his bail, set to $50,000, not been changed to "unsecured." Only after the change was Sobolewski, who is homeless — and per Penn Live makes around $5,000 a year — was Sobolewskireleased without first paying the bond. 

Sobolewski was arrested in late August. To date, it's unclear with Sobolewski even intended on stiffing the gas station. According to USA Today's account of the events, the gas station in question was running a promo at the time, asking $3.00 for two 20-ounce bottles of Mountain Dew. Sobolewski left $2.00 on the counter, took one bottle, and left. The only problem? A single bottle cost $2.29 plus tax, leaving the gas station short $0.43. The gas station clerk at the time attested to PennLive that she followed Sobolewski outside to inform him he'd underpaid, but that Sobolewski drove off. Exxon called the cops.

Now, as a result, Sobolewski may be facing three-and-a-half to seven years in prison. No, this isn't totally run-of-the-mill. And yes, it does sound like a modern-day rendition of "Les Miserables." (You're right, that is the French classic novel-turned-hit-musical about a man sentenced to hard labor over stealing a loaf of bread.) Here's what went down. 

Why a man faces up to seven years for shorting a gas station 43 cents

Before underpaying the Duncannon, Pennsylvania Exxon for a Mountain Dew, Joseph Sobolewski had been convicted of theft twice before: once more than a decade prior over a tank of gasoline, and in 2011 for stealing a $40.00 pair of shoes according to Penn Live. Now, he's facing felony charges under Pennsylvania's three-strikes law. Under the law, the value of the theft associated with his third offense has no bearing. Public information officer for the Pennsylvania State Police Megan Ammerman defended the police's action to USA Today. "Troopers cannot decide to not charge someone for a criminal case; only victims of certain crimes can decline charges. If we are called to an incident involving a crime, we follow and enforce the PA Crimes Code," she explained.

Prosecutors in the case will have to prove that Joseph Sobolewski meant to underpay for his Mountain Dew for the charges to hold. But Brandon J. Flood, secretary of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons, told The Washington Post that the upcoming case was "a complete and utter waste of resources." He further emphasized that "this is literally a matter of cents, resulting in not only criminalizing an individual but costing taxpayers money to house him."