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Is a key federal computer fraud law too broadly applied?

| Dec 10, 2020 | Theft & Economic Crimes

Do you think that there might be overkill concerning the sheer existence and application of laws in some select spheres?

If so, you share that belief with varied company. And, coincidentally, some of the people who harbor your view are judicial insiders.

In fact, they sit on the United States Supreme Court and recently expressed strong misgivings regarding the broad and vague would-be application of one federal law. Justice Neil Gorsuch lamented during oral arguments last week that legislation being spotlighted could potentially make “a federal criminal of us all.”

The law under review by the nation’s highest tribunal last week is the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. In a nutshell, the government seeks to secure a notably broad interpretation concerning what it means to “exceed authorized access” on a computer. A defendant’s legal counsel in Van Buren versus United States is asking the court to rein in the applicable standard.

There are multiple and complex arguments in the case, but this post leaves them for another forum and focuses instead on the matter of overreach. As several justices noted, computer crime is a top-tier criminal law concern, with myriad state and federal statutes already existing that address it. The addition of yet further legislation regarding the subject matter was deemed questionable by several judges. Moreover, Justice Sonia Sotomayor underscored its “dangerously vague” wording and sought application.

The case is ongoing, and this blog forum will be sure to keep readers timely apprised of any material developments that arise.

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