Posted by Steven Musil
A Michigan man who used a coffee shop's unsecured Wi-Fi to check his e-mail from his car could have faced up to five years in prison, according to local TV station WOOD. But it seems few in the village of Sparta, Mich., were aware that using an unsecured Wi-Fi connection without the owner's permission--a practice known as piggybacking--was a felony.
Each day around lunch time, Sam Peterson would drive to the Union Street Cafe, park his car and--without actually entering the coffee shop--check his e-mail and surf the Net. His ritual raised the suspicions of Police Chief Andrew Milanowski, who approached him and asked what he was doing. Peterson, probably not realizing that his actions constituted a crime, freely admitted what he was doing.
"I knew that the Union Street had Wi-Fi. I just went down and checked my e-mail and didn't see a problem with that," Peterson told a WOOD reporter.
Milanowski didn't immediately cite or arrest Peterson, mostly because he wasn't certain a crime had been committed. "I had a feeling a law was being broken," the chief said. Milanowski did some research and found Michigan's "Fraudulent access to computers, computer systems, and computer networks" law, a felony punishable by five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Milanowski, who eventually swore out a warrant for Peterson, doesn't believe Milanowski knew he was breaking the law. "In my opinion, probably not. Most people probably don't."
Indeed, neither did Donna May, the owner of the Union Street Cafe. "I didn't know it was really illegal, either," she told the TV station. "If he would have come in (to the coffee shop), it would have been fine."
But apparently prosecutors were more than aware of the 1979 law, which was revised in 2000 to include protections for Wi-Fi networks.
"This is the first time that we've actually charged it," Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Lynn Hopkins said, adding that "we'd been hoping to dodge this bullet for a while."
However, Peterson won't be going to prison for piggybacking. Because he has no prior record, Peterson will have to pay a $400 fine, do 40 hours of community service and enroll in the county's diversion program.
... and the same story as reported in the Inquirer
A MICHIGAN MAN who used a coffee shop's unsecured Wi-Fi to check his e-mail from his car has managed to avoid going to prison.
Sam Peterson faced a jail term of five years for piggybacking on the coffee shop connection.
According to News.com, no-one in the village of Sparta, Michigan, knew that using an unsecured Wi-Fi connection without the owner's permission was a felony.
Peterson used to drive to the Union Street Cafe, park his car and, without actually entering the coffee shop, check his e-mail and surf the Net.
Police Chief Andrew Milanowski asked him what he was up to and Peterson, not being aware that what he was doing might be wrong, told him.
At the time he wasn't arrested, but Milanowski believed that Peterson was guilty of something, because most people are. The copper did some research and found that Peterson had broken Michigan's 1979 hacking laws.
The coffee shop owner Donna May, said she didn't know it was illegal. If Peterson had come into the coffee shop it would have been fine.
Peterson will have to pay a $400 fine, do 40 hours of community service and enrol in the county's diversion programme. We don't know what a diversion programme is, but we guess it is where you learn that the cops can get you for doing anything.