There are federal and state laws (in all 50 states) addressing the issue of unauthorized access to wireless networks The laws vary widely between states. Some criminalize the mere unauthorized access of a network, while others require monetary damages or intentional breaching of security features. The majority of state laws do not specify what is meant by "unauthorized access".
In St. Petersburg, 2005, Benjamin Smith III was arrested and charged with "unauthorized access to a computer network", a third-degree felony in the state of Florida, after using a resident's wireless network from a car parked outside.
An Illinois man was arrested in January 2006 for piggybacking on a Wi-Fi network. David M. Kauchak was the first person to be charged with "remotely accessing another computer system" in Winnebago County. He had been accessing the Internet through a nonprofit agency's network from a car parked nearby and chatted with the police officer about it. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a fine of $250 and one year of court supervision.
In Sparta, Michigan, 2007, Sam Peterson was arrested for checking his email each day using a café's wireless Internet access from a car parked nearby. A police officer became suspicious, stating, "I had a feeling a law was being broken, but I didn't know exactly what". The man explained what he was doing to the officer when asked, as he did not know that the act was illegal. The officer found a law against "unauthorized use of computer access", leading to an arrest and charges that could result in a five year felony and $10,000 fine. The cafe owner was not aware of the law, either. "I didn't know it was really illegal, either. If he would have come in [to the coffee shop] it would have been fine." They did not press charges, but he was eventually sentenced to a $400 fine and 40 hours of community service. This case was featured on the Colbert Report.
In 2007, Palmer, Alaska, 21-year old Brian Tanner was charged with "theft of services" and had his laptop confiscated after accessing a gaming website at night from the parking lot outside the Palmer Public Library, as he was allowed to do during the day. He had been asked to leave the parking lot the night before by police, which he had started using because they had asked him not to use residential connections in the past. He was not ultimately charged with theft, but could still be charged with trespassing or not obeying a police order. The library director said that Tanner had not broken any rules, and local citizens criticized police for their actions.