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Old 06-06-2007, 11:18 AM   #1
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Michigan man arrested for using cafe's free WiFi from his car

I was not aware of this…..

A Michigan man is being prosecuted for using a cafe's free WiFi... from his car. Sam Peterson was arrested under a Michigan law barring access to anyone else's network without authorization, according to Michigan TV station WOOD. Since the cafe's WiFi network was reserved for customers, and Peterson never came into the cafe, he was essentially piggybacking off of the open network without authorization.
The arrest came about because Peterson apparently showed up to the Union Street Cafe to use its free WiFi from the comfort of his car, and he did so every single day. A police officer grew suspicious of Peterson and eventually questioned him as to what he was up to. Peterson, not realizing that what he was doing was (at least) ethically questionable, told the officer exactly what he was doing. "I knew that the Union Street had WiFi. I just went down and checked my e-mail and didn't see a problem with that," Peterson told a reporter.
Under Michigan's "Fraudulent access to computers, computer systems, and computer networks" law, Peterson's actions could result in a five-year felony and a $10,000 fine. However, prosecutors do not plan to throw the book at him, as they don't believe that Peterson was aware he was even breaking the law. Instead, he will pay a $400 fine and do 40 hours of community service, and the arrest will not go on his record.
Coincidentally, the cafe owner that Peterson was leeching WiFi off of didn't even realize that what Peterson was doing was a crime at the time. Neither did the police officer. "I had a feeling a law was being broken, but I didn't know exactly what," Sparta police chief Andrew Milanowski told the TV station.
This is not the first time someone has been arrested for piggybacking on a WiFi connection. In 2005, a Florida man was arrested and hit with a third-degree felony for surfing an open WiFi network from his SUV. Similarly, an Illinois man was arrested in 2006 for, again, using an unsecured WiFi network from his car. He pleaded guilty to the charges and was given one year's court supervision and a $250 fine. A Washington man was also arrested in 2006 for parking outside of a coffee shop and using the open WiFi connection without purchasing anything. And just earlier this year, an Alaska man was arrested for using the WiFi network from the public library after hours to play games from—you guessed it—his car in the parking lot.
Whether or not you agree with the legality of using an open WiFi network without the owner's authorization, one thing is painfully clear: if you're going to leech, try not to do it from a parked car right in front of the building.
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Old 06-06-2007, 11:51 AM   #2
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Having spent nearly a quarter of a century as a senior police officer, I can say that if one of my patrol officers had arrested someone under these circumstances I would not have been amused. The alleged "offender" would have been released, and my patrolman told to get out and catch a real criminal. There are plenty of violent thieves and drug dealers out there. IMHO, it is this sort of nonsense that brings the law and its enforcers into disrepute.
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Old 06-06-2007, 11:58 AM   #3
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I can see it both ways, but I have to say that in this particular case it was innocent, but this is becoming less and less the norm and more the exception.

Free Wi-Fi spots can create a multitude of issues and problems. Though I believe the officer may have gone too far, I applaude the officer for noticing the event and investigating the issue. For all anyone knew, this person may have been up to no good, which as I said is more and more common as the technology has both grown and been more accepted.

On a side note, the cafe should have done something more to stop unwanted folks like this, but that's a whole 'nuther bucket of worms to tip over.
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Old 06-06-2007, 12:03 PM   #4
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Old 06-06-2007, 12:19 PM   #5
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So I guess if he would have just went in an bought a 50 cent cup of coffee, it would have been ok? Thanks for the heads up. Even though I havent tried this, its good to know that I could possibly be arrested if I do!
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Old 06-06-2007, 12:21 PM   #6
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I, too, am a retired law enforcement officer and supervisor (city and federal) with 35 years experience. My assessment of the above-described situation is:

1. The Patrol Officer was using this statute to deal with a person or situation where such action was necessary because the guy was an arrogant jerk or the circumstances were outrageous. In this case, the officer acted admirably and, as his supervisor, I would buy him lunch.

2. The Patrol Officer just did this guy because he could with no real reason to enforce one of the "stupid" laws. In this case, I would have a large piece of his tail. He would remember this situation for some time while performing the most distasteful duties that I could come up with.
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Old 06-06-2007, 12:24 PM   #7
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It's a free service offered by the cafe. If the cafe were able to charge for the service, then the argument might have some weight. It's difficult to steal something that's being given away. In California it is illegal to require a purchase to enter sweepstakes and drawings that are advertixed publicly.
Power to the bandwidth bandits!
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Old 06-06-2007, 12:33 PM   #8
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Moosetags opinion is interesting. They had some reason to even talk to the guy, before even arresting. Maybe surfing something on his laptop that would be distasteful in the parking lot of a cafe, in full view of passersby????
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Old 06-06-2007, 02:45 PM   #9
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Dang I didn't know you couldn't use the free wi-fi of a coffee shop from the comfort and privacy of your truck. I do that often. I do buy coffee and bring it out though. But if you are a customer what happens when the shop closes or before it opens or even on another day? What about the people that tie up tables for hours and hours and nurse that single cup along? I didn't know "free" could be qualified, it's not actually free then is it? Or what if its an outside cafe and you meet up with others and don't order or ask for water? What constitues a customer? How long are you a customer? Where must you be when taking advantage of the advertised free service? What if someone else pays, are you still a customer or a guest? 40 days and 400 dollars and NO ONE party involved knew it was against the law, that's not compensatory for the action it is far too severe. I am astonished at the scales of justice these days.
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Old 06-06-2007, 03:32 PM   #10
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There was an arrest recently where a scammer was sitting in his car outside a wi-fi hot spot. What he was doing was intercepting the customer’s signals. They were actually connecting to him and then he would pass their signal through to the stores router. The customers thought they were connecting only to the store’s router. As he listened in on their computer traffic, he was collecting all their passwords, credit card numbers etc.

Be careful out there….

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Old 06-06-2007, 04:24 PM   #11
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Sounds like the tax payers are getting cheated..the officer and the prosecutor should have better things to do.
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Old 06-06-2007, 04:28 PM   #12
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As I understand a local beautician was worried about stalkers, and called the police because this guy was parked in front of the nearby coffeshop for a few minutes every afternoon at lunchtime, checking his email. The policeman investigated, determined he was not a stalker, and then thought maybe there was something illegal going on, so he went looking to see if there were any laws being broken by the guy's accessing that network connection. The prosecuter was contacted and decided they needed to press charges. The guy was contacted a week or more after he had initially talked to the policeman with a letter saying he was being charged.

The coffeeshop had nothing to do with it. They said if he had come inside they would have let him use it for free without buying anything. The guy hadn't hurt or annoyed anyone, he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, accessing a free and open wi-fi access point. Some laws on the books meant to protect against something else entirely just happened to overlap with what he was doing.

I think if he had fought it he would have won, but he said in an interview that the punishment if he lost was too steep to risk it, so he took a deal, with a fine and community service and was done with it.


Just another example of how the internet is opening up all sorts of legalities and risks we haven't thought of before. I have done the same thing and never thought I was doing anything illegal. Liek Twink said, if the coffeeshop didn't want people accessing their free wi-fi from the curb, they could have protected against it, but in this case they didn't care, and had nothing to do with the charges. I guess it's like Dad always said, sometimes life just isn't fair.
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Old 06-06-2007, 05:51 PM   #13
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What if you pick up the "free Y-fi from coffee shop A and you are drinking coffee at coffe shop B and don't even realize what crime you are committing?? Any way If free is free whats the deference?
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Old 06-06-2007, 05:58 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by breakaway
I was not aware of this…..

A Michigan man is being prosecuted for using a cafe's free WiFi... from his car. Sam Peterson was arrested under a Michigan law barring access to anyone else's network without authorization, according to Michigan TV station WOOD. Since the cafe's WiFi network was reserved for customers, and Peterson never came into the cafe, he was essentially piggybacking off of the open network without authorization.
The arrest came about because Peterson apparently showed up to the Union Street Cafe to use its free WiFi from the comfort of his car, and he did so every single day. A police officer grew suspicious of Peterson and eventually questioned him as to what he was up to. Peterson, not realizing that what he was doing was (at least) ethically questionable, told the officer exactly what he was doing. "I knew that the Union Street had WiFi. I just went down and checked my e-mail and didn't see a problem with that," Peterson told a reporter.
Under Michigan's "Fraudulent access to computers, computer systems, and computer networks" law, Peterson's actions could result in a five-year felony and a $10,000 fine. However, prosecutors do not plan to throw the book at him, as they don't believe that Peterson was aware he was even breaking the law. Instead, he will pay a $400 fine and do 40 hours of community service, and the arrest will not go on his record.
but it states it is the law, a felony 5 years and a $10,000 fine .that is as simple as can be . he is lucky he got a break.there are other states with the same law. so be careful.
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