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A New Supreme Court Ruling Changes a LOT When it Comes to Computer Use!

United States Supreme Court rulings get a lot of press coverage, because they usually have a significant impact on laws across the country. However, not all press coverage is created equal, and some rulings get a lot less attention than others, usually when something else is soaking up a lot of the media’s attention. 

Which may be why the recent U S Supreme Court ruling on computer usage may have gone largely unnoticed. However, this may actually have major significance for people accused of using computers in certain settings, and particular circumstances. Curious about how this may affect folks living in Lansing, Grand Rapids and the metro Detroit area? Let’s break it down.

What was the case that led to this ruling?

A police officer from Georgia named Nathan Van Buren, had been privately paid to conduct a license plate search, using the police department’s software and computers. Although the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 states that individuals who obtain information from files, folders, or databases to which they do not have authorized access are in violation of the law, this apparently didn’t apply to Officer Van Buren.

The law only covered people who do not have legal access to the computers they are using. However, in the case of Police Officer Van Buren, he was using a work computer that he was allowed to access, and software that he was permitted to use. Although the court acknowledged that Van Buren’s motives were wrong, his access wasn’t illegal under the law.

What does this ruling mean for other situations and individuals?

According to Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who wrote for the majority, “The government’s interpretation of the statute would attach criminal penalties to a breathtaking amount of commonplace computer activity.” In essence, it would “…criminalize everything from embellishing an online-dating profile to using a pseudonym on Facebook.”

This could include an employee using a work computer to play a game on their lunch break, or taking five minutes to check their personal email, if their employer had specified that work computers were for work related use only. It would also include using a pseudonym online to protect their privacy, or violating any specified terms of service on a website or app.

Being accused of computer crimes in Michigan is a big deal!

While this ruling has major implications for people all over the country, here in Michigan computer crimes are already a very serious subject. Whether you live in Grand Rapids, Howell, Lansing, Midland, or Battle Creek, using a computer to commit a crime is a very serious charge. And if you’ve been accused of any type of computer crime here in the Great Lakes State, you’re going to need serious help!


Here at The Kronzek Firm, our aggressive and hard working criminal defense attorneys have more than a quarter century of experience. We’ve handled countless computer crime allegations over the decades, and successfully helped many of our clients achieve positive outcomes in their criminal cases. We’re available 24/7, including weekends and holidays for emergencies. Just call 866 766 5245 (866 7NoJail) to schedule our free consultation today. Our defense team is available for crisis interventions in emergencies.

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