Michigan Man Arrested For Using Cafe’s Free WiFi From His Car

The Michigan police arrested Sam Peterson for using from his car the free WiFi network that Union Street Cafe has reserved solely for its customers. Peterson escaped the penalty of five-year imprisonment and paying a $10,000 fee, as prescribed by the state’s “fraudulent access to computers, computer systems, and computer networks” law. Prosecutors only demanded that he pay a $400 fine and perform 40 hours of community service, arguing that Peterson was possibly unaware that he broke the law. The arrest will not be reflected on his record as well.

Authorities in other states have made similar arrests. In 2005, a Florida man was charged with a third degree felony for tapping an open WiFi network from his SUV. Last year, an Illinois resident pleaded guilty for using an unsecured WiFi network from his car while someone in Washington was apprehended for parking outside a coffee shop and using the store’s WiFi connection without buying anything. This year, a man in Alaska had a similar fate after hours of piggybacking on the public library’s wireless network to play games from his car in the parking lot.
Via [arstechnica.com]

14 Responses to Michigan Man Arrested For Using Cafe’s Free WiFi From His Car

  1. Eric says:

    This is absolute bullshit.

    If someone walks out of his house with a TV, plunks it down on the sidewalk and hangs a sign on it that says “Free – Take Me”; is it stealing to pick it up and take it home?

    Or even better…
    If a bar has a TV that can be seen from the sidewalk via a window and someone is watching it from the sidewalk; are they stealing?

  2. Spinny says:

    thats why they have a security code so that u can ad it to your router… !! Come on, in to a place that offers free wifi buy a coffee get the code!! just like the gas stations fill up and then get a free wash dumb- as$$es who can we charge now with a fine and time now the problem these days are the big headed Prosecutors !!!!!!! funny thing is is that we are all Prosecutors .. seu them for not having a security code its just to tempting not to take it!!! u will prob, win lol peace to all those who are still not sew happy or complainers he is taking free wifi from me bla bla bla.

  3. polypagan says:

    Sure, stores want you to buy something when you use their ‘free’ Wi-Fi’. The invested maybe $100 in a router and they might pay as much as $60 a month for access (these numbers are high, they could do better with effort.) These are pretty small expenses for a business, whether it’s a bakery or whatever. So, if someone ‘steals’ bandwidth, are they losing something? Technically, yes, in reality, no, not really. Passphrase protection doesn’t really work unless it’s gonna be passphrase of the day. I can buy a coffee, log on, then hang out all day.. or tomorrow if the codes the same. This will all blow over when city-wide wi-fi networks are more common…

  4. J D Moore says:

    This is just crazy, especially since most computers will automatically connect to the first open network they find. If you want your network to be secure – set a password, otherwise don’t open it to the world.

  5. henrietta says:

    … and rapists and pedophiles go free.

  6. Budulza says:

    Bigger question is how did they catch him? Are there cyberpolice patrolling the nation now? Did the cafe complain to the police about increased bandwith w/o increased customers so the dedicated a patrol man? Or was he just unlucky enough to have encountered a bored police officer who tapped on the window asking Hey buddy why are you parked here so long?

  7. Don Jenkins says:

    This is not bullshit, this is a hoax– or maybe an urban legend.
    I’m surprised Net Stumbler fell for it.

  8. Wc40218 says:

    I’ve been recieving a wi-fi signal for 2 days now. All i did was pull a 3 year old laptop out & it had a weak signal. After I connected to the web at way over 10MBPS as indicated by a file transfer rate of 1.25 MBytes/sec I went to wal-mart & bought a more powerful card for my desktop. So will I too be arrested for stealing someones connection?

  9. bull says:

    YO dude so if i had a laptop and i went onlineto someones wif ii will go tojail lol tat is so funny

  10. Tregare says:

    it is not a hoax, the original story is at:


  11. Samuel says:

    get the Whole story Before you call bull and before you call it a hoax

    A Michigan man is being prosecuted for using a cafe’s free WiFi… from his car. Sam Peterson was arrested under a Michigan law barring access to anyone else’s network without authorization, according to Michigan TV station WOOD. Since the cafe’s WiFi network was reserved for customers, and Peterson never came into the cafe, he was essentially piggybacking off of the open network without authorization.

    The arrest came about because Peterson apparently showed up to the Union Street Cafe to use its free WiFi from the comfort of his car, and he did so every single day. A police officer grew suspicious of Peterson and eventually questioned him as to what he was up to. Peterson, not realizing that what he was doing was (at least) ethically questionable, told the officer exactly what he was doing. “I knew that the Union Street had WiFi. I just went down and checked my e-mail and didn’t see a problem with that,” Peterson told a reporter.

    Under Michigan’s “Fraudulent access to computers, computer systems, and computer networks” law, Peterson’s actions could result in a five-year felony and a $10,000 fine. However, prosecutors do not plan to throw the book at him, as they don’t believe that Peterson was aware he was even breaking the law. Instead, he will pay a $400 fine and do 40 hours of community service, and the arrest will not go on his record.

  12. Samuel says:

    Coincidentally, the cafe owner that Peterson was leeching WiFi off of didn’t even realize that what Peterson was doing was a crime at the time. Neither did the police officer. “I had a feeling a law was being broken, but I didn’t know exactly what,” Sparta police chief Andrew Milanowski told the TV station.

    This is not the first time someone has been arrested for piggybacking on a WiFi connection. In 2005, a Florida man was arrested and hit with a third-degree felony for surfing an open WiFi network from his SUV. Similarly, an Illinois man was arrested in 2006 for, again, using an unsecured WiFi network from his car. He pleaded guilty to the charges and was given one year’s court supervision and a $250 fine. A Washington man was also arrested in 2006 for parking outside of a coffee shop and using the open WiFi connection without purchasing anything. And just earlier this year, an Alaska man was arrested for using the WiFi network from the public library after hours to play games from—you guessed it—his car in the parking lot.

    Whether or not you agree with the legality of using an open WiFi network without the owner’s authorization, one thing is painfully clear: if you’re going to leech, try not to do it from a parked car right in front of the building.

  13. roger de brabant says:

    why did net stumbler remove my comments? scared to hear the truth? if those charges were appealed in a higher court they would have been thrown out because it has already been proven in both the US and Canada that what the Michigan man was doing is perfectly legal. He could actually turn around right now and sue this dumb Michigan police department for wrongful arrest.

    If there is no password protection in place, then its 100% legal to connect to it. Many businesses actual advertise this service and encourage you to do it without having to buy something. This shows how dumb some police departments in the states are. I connect to open routers right in front of police departments here in Ontario Canada and the cops have no problem with it at all because its totally legal. If theres a password on the router and you hack in, then thats totally different.

  14. Phillyblonds says:

    wow, thats wierd, if thats true then i may get 100 years if caught

    that will never happen ofcourse

    stupid laws