Are criminal penalties for hacking excessive?

Answer

rousseau
Vote Up (11)

I think it is out of balance, and I entirely agree with Christopher's contrasting example of bankers and execs getting off with ZERO personal liability when their actions ruin people's lives. I personally lost well over $100,000 when the financial system nearly collapsed, and I don't know when I'll ever catch back up. Yet the people who caused it walk free and get million dollar bonuses.

The problem is that many prosecutors just don't care about the relative moral implications of actions they prosecute. They see a law, they can prosecute people for it, and they seek the maximum penalty nearly every time. If you don't want to face the possibility of decades in jail, which is a very real possibility even if you are actually innocent, you have to accept their plea offer. Take it or leave it.

Back to the original question, yes, I do think the penalties are out of control for some things. To me, it is somewhat like John Stewart Mill's Harm Principle, and if the individual is not causing direct harm to others, they should be punished very little or not at all. The Auernheimer case would fall into this category, and it is reasonably arguable that his actions actually benefited millions of iPad users. If the miscreants are causing direct harm to others, such as Christopher's examples of stolen credit cards and on-line harassment, then I am all for Old Testament style, merciless punishment.  Prosecutors have demonstrated that they are unwilling to appreciate the difference, so the only answer is to change the laws.

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