Conviction overturned in case of man accused of hacking

January 23, 1998|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

The state's highest court has overturned the conviction of a computer specialist because Maryland's law against "hacking" does not apply to workers who have been freely given computer privileges by their employers, even if they abuse those privileges.

Yesterday's reversal was a victory for Terry Dewain Briggs, 26, a computer programmer who was convicted by an Anne Arundel County Circuit Court jury in 1996 of gaining unauthorized access to a computer, which is called hacking.

Hacking is a misdemeanor punishable by up to five years in prison in Maryland. Briggs, who has moved to Georgia from Washington, and could not be reached last night, was sentenced to two days in jail and 150 hours of community service.

He also settled out of court a civil suit filed by his employers alleging that he had sabotaged their computer network just before he quit in a contract dispute.

Gary E. Bair, chief of criminal appeals in the attorney general's office, said officials will review the law and the Court of Appeals ruling and decide whether to ask lawmakers to expand Maryland's statute.

"If you want a law that says if you are an employee and you use your computer in a way that your employer finds objectionable, then that is what your law should say," said Bradley A. Thomas, a Washington lawyer who represented Briggs.

The federal government and many states make it a crime for people to exceed their authorized computer access or to tamper with a computer system to which they have access.

Briggs said he did not tamper with the system he maintained for the Scarborough Group, a securities investment company in Annapolis.

Pub Date: 1/23/98

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