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Former Louisiana official faces computer crime charges

As the Internet becomes a more important part of the lives of Louisiana residents, it also attracts more and more crime. And, as computer crimes spread, the authorities struggle to find ways to fight them. In one high-profile case currently being heard in Baton Rouge federal court, prosecutors and the defense are arguing about how far the authorities should go in fighting Internet crime, and what even counts as a crime online.

The case involves the former state commissioner for the Alcohol and Tobacco Control department, who is accused of using his former position to illegally access police databases in order to research people who were not under criminal investigation. He has been charged with computer fraud, aggravated identity theft and making false statements. In all, he faces 32 charges.

Prosecutors say that the man used his position to access a database of driver's license information. A witness told the court that government workers were not legally allowed to access this information except as part of a criminal investigation. The man's lawyers contend that any prohibited information the man obtained came up when he accidentally hit a key in the state's computer system.

Defense attorneys also said that the identity theft charges should be dropped because prosecutors have not supplied evidence that he stole anything. Prosecutors argue that the identity theft law does not require actual theft.

Computer crimes are a growing field and the law is still struggling to catch up with them. Those accused of these crimes must defend themselves against zealous prosecutors and courts that often may not fully understand the technology involved. It's important for the accused to work on a strong defense strategy with the help of Louisiana attorneys who understand computer crime and know how to explain it to a jury.

Source: The Advocate, "Painter trial attorneys clash over use of databases," Bill Lodge, Dec. 18, 2012

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