Ohio Closes Theft Loophole

5/05/2002 8:00 PM Eastern

Operators hope a loophole in Ohio's piracy law — which one suspect in a theft case exploited last year to avoid conviction — has been plugged by an amendment to the state's theft-of-service law.

Prior to the amendment, Ohio law forbade the possession, manufacture, sale or distribution of devices used to steal cable. It also banned the alteration of devices to aid in the theft of programming.

But a court's narrow definition of "alteration" led to the dismissal of charges against an accused thief last year, said Ohio Cable Telecommunciations Association president Ed Kozelek.

In that incident, Ross County prosecutors originally won a conviction of a man for connecting a wire to his cable-utility box in order to obtain unauthorized service, said Kozelek.

But the suspect appealed to the state's Fourth District Court of Appeals, arguing he had "altered" nothing and that the wire was just a wire.

The court agreed, interpreting the term "adapt" to mean a physical alteration. The conviction was overturned.

Even though the case set a precedent for just Ross County, the trade association wanted to block other defendants from making the same argument elsewhere.

This legislative session, the industry backed an amendment that would make any unauthorized access to a cable system or service a fifth-degree felony.

Those penalties would be levied in addition to other civil and criminal penalties for theft and equipment alteration already incorporated into state law.

The amendment has been signed into law by Gov. Bob Taft and takes effect July 8.

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