Comment: Criminal Consequences of Wi-Fi Joyriding: Whose Interests Should Arkansas Protect?* Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 2009 Arkansas Law Review, Inc.
Arkansas Law Review

Comment: Criminal Consequences of Wi-Fi Joyriding: Whose Interests Should Arkansas Protect?*

* The author would like to thank his faculty advisor Ned Snow, Assistant Professor of Law, University of Arkansas School of Law, for his advice on researching the subject matter of this article and for all his tips on writing legal articles. In addition, the author thanks Mark Morley, Computer Support Specialist, University of Arkansas School of Law, for his contributions to the author's understanding of computer technology.



62 Ark. L. Rev. 125


Taylor E. White



An Arkansan likely feels law-abiding when she is at home reading emails or paying bills online. Little can one imagine that she commits a crime simply by accessing a neighbor's unsecured wireless network and embarking on an innocuous journey down the Information Superhighway. While this scenario sounds farfetched, it could certainly happen in Arkansas. 1 The term Wi-Fi joyriding refers to harmless or inoffensive use of the Internet, such as checking emails, reading the news, and shopping online, while utilizing another's unsecured wireless network without authorization. 2 Nevertheless, in addition to potential civil liability for trespass, Wi-Fi joyriding is implicitly included as a crime in a variety of statutes in Arkansas's criminal code. 3

In fact, Internet users in Arkansas face dire criminal consequences for Wi-Fi joyriding. 4 Internet service offered through modern Internet Service Providers (ISPs) usually costs up to forty and sixty dollars per month, not including the fee for the wireless router and adapter. 5 Joyriding mere minutes a day for less than a year is technically - very technically - theft of almost $ 700 worth of wireless Internet service, effectively making the thievery a felony. 6 Arkansas defines such a felony as a Class C, 7 enabling courts to fine perpetrators up to $ 10,000 8 or imprison them for at least three years. 9

Arkansas should decriminalize, or at the very least, lessen the punishment for Wi-Fi joyriding. While individual property interests and the state's interests ...
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