Computer Crime or Private Communication?
When it comes to opening someone else’s mail, secretly recording telephone conversations between two people, or hacking into a person’s computer and reading their private e-mails and documents, almost everyone will agree that a crime is being committed. What many people might not realize is that this is also true for husbands and wives. In 2010, a Rochester Hills man was charged with the computer crime of hacking after it was discovered that the man was reading his wife’s e-mails because he believed she was cheating on him. As it turned out, the husband was correct. What he didn’t anticipate was the criminal investigation and charges that would come due to his actions.
The case brings into question the privacy a person has with someone they share a home and life with. In the matter discussed above, the husband and wife shared the computer used to send the e-mails. Michigan law prohibits a user from accessing a computer system without the consent of another. The law was written more than 20 years ago and was meant to deal with identity theft and protecting trade secrets. Still, as it is written, the statute protects everyone’s e-mails as well, even those written by a significant other. Had the case continued and the husband been convicted, he could have faced a five-year prison sentence.
Recently, the Rochester Hills man had the computer hacking charges against him dropped. It was discovered that his wife was also unlawfully spying on him by looking through his smart-phone. Any testimony she would have given as a witness could be subject to cross examination and be a violation of her 5th Amendment rights. Nevertheless, this case is a lesson to everyone, regardless of their relationship status, that something as seemingly harmless as checking a loved one’s e-mails can have serious criminal repercussions. Whether you know the password or steal it, anything that is password protected subjects you to possible criminal charges if you do not have lawful consent to access it.
If you have questions or need the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney in Michigan, call John Freeman today.