The Ohio Court of Appeals, in State v. Wolf, No. 08-16, slip op. (Ohio Ct. App. 5d April 28, 2009), recently upheld application of Ohio’s computer crime law to an employee who used his work computer to engage in criminal conduct (solicitation of a dominatrix-prostitute). While this holding may seem uncontroversial, another aspect of the decision might open the door to imposing criminal liability on employees for violating employer computer use policies.
Wolf was a Shelby City Wastewater Treatment Plant employee. The plant superintendent discovered nude photographs on Wolf’s work computer while performing routine maintenance. The superintendent notified police, who discovered that Wolf used the city-owned computer to solicit a prostitute, visit pornographic websites and upload nude photographs of himself during work hours. At trial, the jury found him guilty of soliciting prostitution, theft in office and unauthorized use of a On appeal, Wolf challenged the trial court decisions overruling his motion for acquittal on both the charge of theft in office and the charge of unauthorized access to a computer. The Court of Appeals agreed that the trial court should have acquitted on the theft in office charge, but ruled that Wolf’s use of the office computer was unauthorized under Ohio law.