Confiscated Phone

John Doe is using a phone, typically now it's a cellphone, but up until about the 1980s it was a Pay Phone or in rare cases, his or another person's home phone. Richard Roe decides he needs to use the phone. Richard will either interrupt the call (for a pay phone or a home phone) or steal or confiscate John's cell phone. If Richard Roe just takes the phone and isn't planning to give it back, that's stealing. If a police officer or public official takes a phone because there's an emergency, that's a confiscation, because presumably the owner will eventually get the phone returned.

In the case of a pay phone or other landline, seizing a phone to use for a call is actually legal in the United States if you have an emergency. Now, how do you know what is an "emergency"? Well, every telephone book in the United States had a notice defining what an emergency is. "An emergency is a situation where life or property is in jeopardy and the prompt summoning of aid is essential." What that means is if your car got hit and no one is injured, you don't have an emergency, i.e. you can wait until the person finishes their call to get a tow truck. But, if your dog or cat was hit by a car, a dog or cat is "property" and not getting hold of a veterinarian or a cab "promptly" to take them there (for "aid") means your "property" is in jeopardy of dying, and this is a valid reason to demand emergency use of a phone.

In a lot of these cases, it might not be an emergency, it might be Richard Roe just needs a phone in a hurry and steals one. In an older work, when seizing control of the payphone, expect Richard to tell the person on the other end "He'll call you back" before hanging up and dialing their own call.

Compare Hero Stole My Bike, where a vehicle is taken in an emergency.


  • Lucky Star has a different (Yet realistic) example of the trope in which Tsukasa has her Cell phone taken away after it ends up going off in class and causing a disruption.

  • In the film The Matrix, Neo grabs a cell phone away from a guy who complains, until Agent Smith morphs into his body.
  • For the film Cellular, this is basically the entire plot: A man is connected to a woman who was kidnapped, and she doesn't know where she is, and he's got the only connection to her, and if his phone runs out, he'll need to beg, borrow, buy or steal another for the battery.
  • In Volcano, the chief of Emergency Services for the City of Los Angeles, confiscates a radio reporter's cell phone when his own becomes unusable.
  • In The Sting, Hooker grabs a pay phone away from a woman in order to try to call Luther before he is murdered, then runs off to try and reach him. Hooker's friend is left behind, being swatted by the woman and her purse because she lost her nickel and wants it back.
  • The eponymous killing machine in The Terminator hauls a biker type arguing with his girlfriend out of the booth so he can look through the phone book. He can be heard complaining, "Man, you've got a real attitude problem!" but fortunately for him sticks to verbal abuse.
  • In Stitch! The Movie Jumba answers the phone while imprisoned. When Hamsterwheel is alerted about it, he has Gantu take the phone to propose a ransom in exchange for Jumba.
  • In Home Alone, the family, in a panic, forces a woman at an airport off the phone.
  • In Die Hard with a Vengeance, McClane hijacks a car to use a car phone which then dies out. Earlier, Zeus needed to answer Simon's call on a payphone another person is using.

Live-Action TV
  • In episode 7 of Day Break, Hopper hijacks the laptop of a pedestrian to read out the data from his USB Stick.

Western Animation
  • The an episode of Kim Possible Draken takes and answers Kim's Communicator to tell Wade that she can't talk at the moment and to leave a message.