03 October 2007

When the Man Comes Around

I always want to be on the side of law and order, but sometimes they really know how to try a guy's patience.
A Michigan man has been fined $400 and given 40 hours of community service for accessing an open wireless Internet connection outside a coffee shop. Under a little known state law against computer hackers, Sam Peterson II, of Cedar Springs, Mich., faced a felony charge after cops found him on March 27 sitting in front of the Re-Union Street Café in Sparta, Mich., surfing the Web from his brand-new laptop.

He got on the Internet by tapping into the local coffee shop's wireless network, but instead of going inside the shop to use the free Wi-Fi offered to paying customers, he chose to remain in his car and piggyback off the network, which he said didn't require a password.
I'm so close to dusting off the old "don't you cops have anything else to do?"

"It wasn't anything we were looking for, and it wasn't anything that we frankly particularly wanted to get involved in, but it basically fell in our lap and it was a little hard to just look the other way when somebody handed it to us," said Lynn Hopkins, assistant prosecuting attorney for Kent County.
What a tool. Just as the cops has discretion in making arrests, the prosecuting attorney has discretion on how to prosecute. This is why you're likely to get a warning for driving a few mph over the posted speed limit and not be arrested.

The case has surprised locals, including . . . Donna May, owner of the coffee shop. "He could have just come in the cafe, even if he didn't have any money, I would let him get on it," May said. May said that the wireless connection is free for customers to her cafe.
In this instance, the "injured" party has no loss nor seeks prosecution. My cynical side is that this all comes from a small-town chip on the shoulder of law enforcement - something like "I had to get out my chair and look into this, and I'm going to find something wrong."

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