PLEASE NOTE: To protect your safety in response to the threats of Covid-19, we are offering our clients the ability to meet with us in-person, via telephone, or through video conferencing. Please call our office to discuss your options.

Tampa 813-345-4909 | En Español 813-390-2494
Orlando / Miami / West Palm Beach - 888-496-5916

Appeal highlights split among courts on federal fraud law, P.1

Earlier this month, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals came down with a decision that further underscores the need for clarification of a federal fraud law. The court ended up overturning a conviction against a former New York police officer under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act based on the officer’s online chat room discussions with an undercover cop.

In those discussions, the officer allegedly plotted to kidnap and kill women known by the officer, including his wife. In a previous appeal, it had been determined that the officer was not actually plotting the death of the women, but only engaging in violent fantasies. Where the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act comes in is that the officer had used law enforcement databases to find information about the women he said he was planning to kidnap and kill. 

In the recent appeal, it was determined that the officer could not be convicted under the law because of ambiguities in the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The specific language at issue had to do with cases where a defendant “exceeds authorized access” of a protected computer. Under the law, there are several provisions requiring prosecutors to prove that the defendant accessed a computer without authorization, while others require proof of accessing a either “without authorization” or “exceed[ing] authorized access.”

Under the law, exceeding authorizing access means to use one’s authorization to access a computer in order to obtain or alter information in the computer which the individual is not allowed to obtain or alter.

In our next post, we’ll continue looking at the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and what impact the recent decision may have on its interpretation.


Reuters, “2nd Circuit ‘cannibal cop’ opinion deepens appellate rift on anti-hacking law,” Alison Frankel, Dec. 3, 2015.

Department of Justice, OLE Litigation Series: Prosecuting Computer Crimes, Accessed Dec. 16, 2015. 

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information
Mark J. O'Brien's cases have been featured in:
The New York Times | The Miami Herald | Bay News 9 | abc 7 | The Boston Globe | USA Today | Tampa Bay Times | FOX News Channel | The Washington Post | abc Good Morning America | Chicago Tribune | NT News Talk Florida | St. Petersburg Times | Deadspin
“Mark, thank you for everything. I will forever be indebted to you. You have stood by me and believed in me when it was not the popular thing to do. You are an amazing advocate.” Adam Filthaut
  • Former Partner at the Law Firm of Adams and Diaco (Robert Adams and Stephen Diaco)
  • MJ (Todd Schnitt) Morning Show/Bubba the Love Sponge Clem Trial
  • Attorney Phil Campbell DUI Setup/Florida Bar Trial
More Testimonials
American Association for Justice National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers | NACDL 1958 Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers | FACDL Super Lawyers AVVO | See Reviews LC | Lead Counsel Rated
Best Criminal
Defense Lawyers
in Orlando