Should Everyone Who Uses A Phone Or A Computer As Part Of A Crime Get A Longer Sentence?

from the so-says-the-8th-circuit dept

We've noted just how far the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) has been stretched lately. The law -- which is supposed to be used against those involved in malicious hacking -- actually breaking into computer systems and such -- keeps being used in ways totally different than intended, such as claiming that just visiting a website you weren't supposed to can now be deemed as "hacking." Michael Scott alerts us to another unintended consequence of the broad interpretation of the CFAA, involving a sex offender who got an extra 28 months on his prison sentence because he used a phone.

Now, as the article notes, if there's anyone out there who deserves a longer prison sentence, it's a sex offender who victimizes minors. But that doesn't mean we should condone stretching a computer hacking law in a ridiculous manner. In this case, because the CFAA allows increased sentencing for someone who used a computer in the commission of the crime, the judge decided that a rather standard mobile phone counts as a "computer" under the law. Even though it was a standard mobile phone, and not a smartphone or feature phone, the judge quoted Steve Wozniak in pointing out that "Everything has a computer in it nowadays."

Of course, that should be a reason why we should worry about this kind of sentencing. The idea that anyone deserves more time in prison solely because they used a mobile phone doesn't make much sense. It continues to make a mockery of the law. If the guy deserves to be in prison longer for the actual despicable crime he committed, then the law should allow such longer sentences. But the courts shouldn't twist the CFAA to accomplish that goal.
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Filed Under: computers, crime, sentencing


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  1. identicon
    Lync, 23 Feb 2011 @ 12:50pm

    Should Everyone Who Uses A Phone Or A Computer As Part Of A Crime Get A Longer Sentence?

    If they knowingly used any tech device to commit a crime of any sort, such use should impart harsher sectencing the same as the use of a weapon in the commission of said crime. Nuff said!

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