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The Law Blogger is a law-related blog that informs and discusses current matters of legal interest to readers of The Oakland Press and to consumers of legal services in the community. We hope readers will  find it entertaining but also informative. The Law Blogger does not, however, impart legal advice, as only attorneys are licensed to provide legal counsel.
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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Oakland Circuit's Spousal Computer Privacy Case Rejected by Supreme Court

Leon Walker with his former
spouse in happier times
There is an interesting privacy law criminal case percolating through the appeals courts that originated here in Oakland County.  The case involves the alleged hacking access by a husband of his former wife's computer.

Last Friday, the Michigan Supreme Court denied Leon Walker's application for leave to further appeal from a Michigan Court of Appeals order that similarly rejected his effort to quash the criminal information filed in his case.

On appeal, Walker's lawyers have asserted that the legislature did not intend to criminalize the domestic relations nature of his conduct.  Also, although Walker did not challenge the constitutionality of the statute, he simply asserted that the evidence adduced by the prosecutor at the preliminary examination did not comport with the proscribed conduct set forth in the statute.

The case now goes back down to Oakland Circuit Judge Martha Anderson for further proceedings and trial.

Back in 2009, Walker suspected his wife was having an affair.  Employed as a computer technician for Oakland County, he had expertise on how to access computers.  Allegedly, he hacked into a computer that the prosecutor alleges had been gifted to his wife, discovering evidence of the affair.

This blog covered the case in an earlier post when the matter seemed to be heading for trial.

In speaking with Mr. Walker yesterday [he contacted our law firm], he said he is looking forward to his trial when all the facts will come out before a jury.  Among those facts, he says the laptop computer at issue in the case was premarital and that he never gifted it to his former wife.

Walker also claims that the Oakland County Sheriff, or their computer expert, may be responsible for evidence spoilation; they claim to have lost or misplaced his laptop.

Although the Supreme Court declined to decide the case at this time, some of the Justices hinted at their concern that the language in the statute is very broad and could be used to criminalize otherwise legal conduct.

Justice Marilyn Kelly, who voted to hear the appeal, stated her concern in the High Court's order:
The factual basis for one of the charges against defendant is that he allegedly accessed his wife’s e-mail account without her permission.   This may be the first time in the 33 years since MCL 752.795 became law and the 16 years since it was amended to its present form that the statute has been used as the basis for criminal charges for the behavior in question. 
Justice Kelly goes on to note that the Michigan legislature submitted a bill to the House Judiciary Committee last year seeking to amend the unauthorized computer access statute.  This bill would carve-out an express exception in the statute for spouses, provided that certain conditions were satisfied.

We will be keeping an eye on this hot case.

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