Michigan Houses passes bill to define handheld devices as 'computers'
The Michigan House on Thursday voted 106-0 to define smartphones, iPads and other handheld devices as "computers" to better protect people from Internet crimes.
HB 5284 now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Current law prohibits the use of computers or the Internet to commit crimes such as sexual assault, kidnapping, bomb threats, stalking and sex-related crimes involving minors.
Because smartphones, iPads, and other handheld devices are not specifically mentioned in the statutory definition of "computer," some prosecutors bring in experts to testify at trial that the devices actually are computers in order to secure a prosecution.
"Relying on expert testimony can increase costs to Michigan taxpayers and potentially allow a criminal to go free if the expert doesn't show up in court for whatever reason," said state Rep. Mark Ouimet, R-Scio Township, who voted for the measure. "We took a positive step to ensure the public's safety when it comes to Internet-related crimes."
Ouimet said huge technology changes have "essentially given us a desktop computer that fits in the palm of our hand," and so the state must update its laws to better protect residents.
"Wireless technology has quickly changed our way of life, and unfortunately there are people who will use these advances for criminal acts," he said.