Supreme Court Weighs Ruling That Could Make Cyber Crime Charges More Common

A ruling in regards to a federal cyber crime case could have major impacts on people engaged in otherwise innocent internet activities.

Most of us end up spending a considerable portion of our days online. Between cell phones, tablets, and computers you use at work, it is easy for the lines between personal and professional use to become blurred. Unfortunately, with increases in the numbers of people using online tools and resources as part of their jobs, there has been a corresponding increase in the number of both general improprieties and internet crimes. The U.S. Supreme Court is currently weighing a case that relies on the nation’s existing and sweeping cyber crime laws. The ruling they make could end up impacting our normal, daily internet activities and could also result in an increase in criminal charges. 

Supreme Court Weighs the Scope of Existing Cyber Crime Law

According to a November 30, 2020 news report by Politico, the Supreme Court is currently considering a case that calls into question the reach of the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). The Act is a collection of broad and sweeping laws initially designed to target hackers and internet activists seeking to disrupt online services. More recently, it has been used in cases involving alleged improprieties and to charge people with cyber crimes.

Part of the problem with the CFAA is that it was written at a time when the internet was not so entrenched in our daily lives, yet it is being used to prosecute current cyber crime cases. The Supreme Court Justices need to consider whether these new cases citing the law constitute overreach and punish otherwise innocent people for behavior that is far from criminal.

Georgia Police Officer Charged Under CFAA

The situation arises out of a criminal case involving a Georgia police officer who was convicted of violating the CFAA by accessing the state’s online license plate database for personal use. His attorneys argued that, while he may have shown poor judgment in his behavior, he was not in violation of the Act as he did not illegally hack into the database. Rather, he had access to it as a part of his job.

The officer was convicted and has since filed an appeal. The conviction was upheld by the Circuit Appeals court, which found that the CFAA prohibited accessing a computer for improper purposes, regardless of whether the defendant was an authorized user. One of the main concerns raised by the U.S. Supreme Court is that upholding the verdict could open the door for people to be charged with cyber crimes due to innocuous behavior such as surfing the web or scanning social media from work devices on their lunch hours or breaks.

Request a Consultation with Our Gwinnett County Criminal Defense Attorneys

At Zimmerman & Associates, we provide the trusted guidance and professional legal representation you need when facing potentially serious online charges. To request a consultation, contact our Norcross criminal defense attorneys today.