Sex Crimes, Cell Phones and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act


If anyone deserves a longer sentence, it is a sex offender who victimizes minors. But no one would ever have anticipated that a sex offender would receive extra prison time for using a basic cell phone in the furtherance of his crime. Last week the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the enhanced sentence of the defendant Neil Kramer who pleaded guilty to transporting a female minor in interstate commerce with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, Title 18, U.S.C. § 2423(a). Kramer’s prison sentence was increased by an extra 2 1/3 years because he had used his cell phone to make calls and text messages to the victim for a six-month period leading up to the offense. U.S. v. Kramer, 2011 WL 383710 (8th Cir. Feb. 8, 2011). In total Kramer was sentenced to over 13 years in prison.

Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the sentencing judge is permitted to increase the sentence for the crime to which Kramer pled guilty if a computer, as that term is defined by Title 18, U.S. C. § 1030 (e)(1) of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”), is used to facilitate the offense. Based on its finding that the cell phone is a computer, the court increased Kramer’s sentence by 28 months.

This case illustrates the breadth with which the federal courts are interpreting the definition of a computer. Indeed, the Circuit Court quoted Steve Wozniak, the founder of Apple Computer, for the proposition that “Everything has a computer in it nowadays.” Id. at *1. This case not only has ramifications for increasing the length of prison sentences for federal crimes, but it also expands the reach of the CFAA, the federal computer crime statute, to ordinary cell phones.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Nick Akerman, Dorsey & Whitney LLP | Attorney Advertising

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