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Confiscated Phone

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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.


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  • An early "Jake from State Farm" spot featured a man up at 3 in the morning on his phone. His wife thinks he's talking to another woman, but he says it's Jake from State Farm. The wife grabs his phone and asks "What are you wearing, (finger quotes) 'Jake from State Farm'?" Jake himself in a deep male voice replies "Uh...khakis." The wife still doesn't buy it.

  • 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.

  • Tintin: Averted when the titular character has to make an urgent phone call, but is stuck outside the only phone booth in the rain while someone inside is apparently yakking away for ages... until the rain stops and a Grande Dame emerges with the obligatory small dog, saying they can depart now that it's stopped raining. A bedraggled Tintin gives them a Death Glare as he steps into the now empty booth.

     Film — Animated 
  • Stitch! The Movie: Jumba answers the phone while imprisoned. When Hamsterviel is alerted about it, he has Gantu take the phone to propose a ransom in exchange for Jumba.

     Film — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • Collateral: Max grabs a pedestrian's phone to call Annie and warn her about Vincent coming to kill her.
  • 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.
  • Dumb and Dumber: Attempted by an anxious man who tries to force Joe "Mental" Mentalino, a henchman for the main villain of the film, off a pay phone so the man can use it himself. Mentalino responds by punching through the glass to knock him out.
  • Home Alone: The family, in a panic, forces a woman at an airport off the phone.
  • The Matrix: Neo grabs a cell phone away from a guy who complains, until Agent Smith morphs into his body.
  • Rebirth of Mothra: After Desghidorah has restored its wings and a number of people are in the hospital, one of the men present, a reporter, is trying to talk to someone on his phone for his work. Much to his distress, a nurse and other staff members promptly wrestle it away from him because cell phones aren't allowed in the hospital.
  • Spice World: When the Girls' friend Nicola is suddenly about to give birth, Mel C snatches a mobile phone from a nearby clubber to call an ambulance.
  • 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 Terminator: The eponymous killing machine hauls a biker type arguing with his girlfriend out of the booth so he can look through the phone book. The biker can be heard complaining, "Man, you've got a real attitude problem!" but fortunately for him, he sticks to verbal abuse.
  • Volcano: The chief of Emergency Services for the City of Los Angeles confiscates a radio reporter's cell phone when his own becomes unusable.

  • The Famous Five: In Five Run Away Together, the children do not want the cook Mrs Stick to answer the phone when Uncle Quentin calls. Unfortunately, he calls earlier than he said he would, and Mrs Stick does get in first. George flies into the room like a wild thing, and snatches the receiver out of Mrs Stick's hand.
  • Masked Dog by Raymond Obstfeld: Played with, in which the criminal has superpowers after a Mad Science experiment. When a bystander gets annoyed at how he's hogging the public phone to make a number of calls, he responds by using his Super-Strength to rip apart the phone book, then takes the man's glasses and eats them.

     Live-Action TV  
  • Class Of Lies (or Mr. Temporary): This becomes an important plot point in one episode. Korean teachers typically collect the students' phones before an exam and return it to them after the exam period ends. However, the undercover teacher Moo-Hyeok, who's the invigilator during the class' test, took this opportunity to hack and transfer data from Beomjin'snote  phone to his assistant working behind-the-scenes. Beomjin finishes his exam early and asks for his phone, but Moo-hyeok's persistent refusal to give it back makes him suspicious of the teacher. Beomjin, then, reminds the teacher that he has the right to get his phone and leave since a certain period of time has passed. He eventually gets his phone back after a suspenseful back and forth with the teacher.
  • Day Break (2006): In episode 7, Hopper hijacks the laptop of a pedestrian to read out the data from his USB Stick.
  • For Life: While Aaron's contraband mobile phone is never noticed by the guards (or if they did notice they ignored it), Cassius finds out about it and appropriates it for himself.
  • M*A*S*H: In one episode, Hawkeye, Trapper and Frank grab Henry's phone from each other regarding the acquisition of a gun to bring down Five O'clock Charlie — Frank for, Hawkeye and Trapper against.

     Western Animation  
  • Code Lyoko: In the 9th episode, "Satellite", one teacher's class is interrupted by every single student's cell phone ringing at the exact same instant (due to XANA's actions), and it's implied that this has happened to the entire boarding school campus. Her reaction (and the reaction of every seen faculty member) is to confiscate every single student's phone (since having them in class is against the rules).
  • Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines: At the start of "Follow That Feather," Dick and Muttley are flying together searching for Yankee Doodle Pigeon when the phone rings. Muttley answers it, then Dastardly contemptuously grabs it from him. Cue Muttley's Angrish.
  • Kim Possible: In one episode, Draken takes and answers Kim's Communicator to tell Wade that she can't talk at the moment and to leave a message.