Wi-Fi Networks and Criminal Liability

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What Happens If Someone Engages in Illegal Activity Using My Wi-Fi Connection?

Generally speaking, a person who did not engage in an illegal activity should not be held liable for that activity. The same is true for unauthorized use of wi-fi connections. Police authorities should be equipped to trace the exact source of the illegal activity in order to apprehend the appropriate suspect.

For example, if a neighbor hacks into a wi-fi account without permission, and then engages in illegal activity, it is likely that the owner will not be held liable. However, if the initial access was authorized or the network was unsecured without a password, it is possible that the owner may become involved in criminal charges.

How Can an Owner of a Wi-Fi Connection Be Held Accountable Someone Else's Illegal Use?

In 2011, a New York resident had his house raided by the police because they suspected that he was downloading child pornography. However, the resident was not responsible for the activity, but rather his neighbor was, who had logged into the man’s unsecured account. While the resident was not found guilty, he was still involved in the legal process because he did not protect his account with a password. 

Are Passwords Required for Wi-Fi Accounts?

Of course not. Laws do not require a person to password-protect their wi-fi accounts. However, it is certainly best practice to secure Internet connections, as illustrated above. A password is usually sufficient to deter a person who is looking to piggyback on a person’s wi-fi account.

Do I Have Any Privacy Rights When Using Another Person's Wi-Fi Account?

Courts have held that persons using the wi-fi account of another do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy for their internet activity. This is especially true if the person uses another’s account without their permission. Thus, law enforcement may lawfully monitor internet activity that occurs while logged into:

Do I Need a Lawyer?

If you have been involved with criminal charges in connection with wi-fi laws, you should speak with a criminal defense lawyer immediately. An attorney can help determine what the laws of your state say regarding wi-fi activities.

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Last Modified: 09-08-2014 03:22 PM PDT

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